"He always seems to give us a lift," Mike Lowell said.
X-rays on Youkilis' wrist were negative, the diagnosis a contusion. Boston didn't need him. Ellsbury scored the go-ahead run, then drove in three more on a pair of singles, a couple more ticks on a 13-game hitting streak that has him batting a cool .394 in the Majors and .426 since his Sept. 1 callup.
"He doesn't make outs," Eric Hinske said. "I'm happy for him. It's good when you get a young guy to come in with fresh legs, and he's fast. It seems like he's barreling everything up there."
"Without him," Hinske added, "we'd be struggling."
For Ron Johnson, who managed Ellsbury in 87 games at Triple-A Pawtucket -- and who has watched the big club from the Fenway Park dugout in a Red Sox uniform since the end of Pawtucket's season -- the success of the 24-year-old outfielder carried with it some vindication.
"He's helping our Major League club win," Johnson said, "and that's what it's about. You have this system that's designed to do that."
Ellsbury said he figured he'd be coming into the game. He just didn't figure how.
In the fifth, after Youkilis collapsed in a heap, Ellsbury limbered up and ran to first base as a pinch-runner. He scored without problem on a J.D. Drew single after taking two bases on a David Ortiz hit.
Not until the sixth inning did Ellsbury really show his speed. He wheeled around from first on Ortiz's line-drive double into the gap between center and right and approached home as the throw arrived. Sensing opportunity, although not in the same way as Hinske -- who had leveled catcher Jorge Posada moments before -- Ellsbury slid hard, kicking Posada's shin-guarded leg out of the way.
Posada, perhaps expecting another big hit, kept the ball close to his body. He never tagged the sliding Ellsbury.
"I don't know what he was thinking," Ellsbury said, "but I think he was thinking I was going to come in [hard]."
"That ball David hits," Lowell said, "very few guys can score from first on that, especially with the arm [center fielder] Melky Cabrera has, and a good relay and everything. Speed is a huge factor when you have it on your side."
In the seventh, Ellsbury came up again with the bases loaded, leveling his hard, compact swing on a low fastball. The resulting shot rocketed across the infield into center, bringing home two.
It was a good night's work for the rookie, whose idea of a rivalry game two years ago might have been with Pac-10 foe Arizona. The Oregon State product, who was selected in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, nevertheless likes just where he is.
"You're playing in a lot bigger stadium, on national TV," Ellsbury said. "And, you know, college games are big. Nothing like that, either, to represent your college and go out there, but this stage is awesome."
Likewise, his teammates are just fine with having him around.
"He's going about things right," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "Period."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.