Speedster Ellsbury can run Sox to a split

Speedster Ellsbury can run Sox to split

ST. PETERSBURG -- When Jacoby Ellsbury leads off again for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, it will mark the one-week anniversary of his stunning steal of home against the Yankees.

Ellsbury might just commemorate the day by continuing to wear out the basepaths of Tropicana Field, where he stole three bases against the Rays on Saturday.

The speedster has 13 stolen bases to lead the Majors.

"If teams give me the opportunity to run, I'll run," Ellsbury said. "The key is that the legs are feeling good. When the legs are feeling good, then the bases come."

Ellsbury's steal of home came on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. He will again be on a national stage in this one, as TBS is carrying the game.

Although the Red Sox haven't had much success as a team at Tropicana Field of late, Ellsbury enjoys the venue.

"This is one of the places I like stealing," Ellsbury said. "It has what you call a fast track. Just the opportunity to get on base, and depending on the pitcher, if it's the right situation, I'm going to go."

Does the center fielder take note of where he ranks among the league leaders in steals?

"I'll notice," Ellsbury said. "A lot of times before the game, they'll kind of flash it [on television]. As far as monitoring it myself, usually I don't."

Ellsbury and the Red Sox will try to leave Tropicana Field with a split of this four-game series. This, after dropping the first two games.

"With the way it's started, that would almost be like a win for us," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "I think being able to use that momentum going to New York would be huge, especially at a place we haven't really fared that well of late. Splitting would almost be like us winning here."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Brad Penny (2-0, 8.66 ERA)
Penny's on-again, off-again trend continued in his most recent start. In his second and fourth starts, the right-hander gave up a combined 15 runs (12 earned) on 13 hits and eight walks. His first and third outings were quality starts and wins. Penny's next start will be an odd number. Having spent his entire career before this season in the National League, Penny last faced the Rays during Interleague Play in 2004, when he was a Florida Marlin. Penny took the loss that day, giving up five runs on seven hits in six innings.

TB: RHP James Shields (2-2, 3.74 ERA)
A mental mistake undermined what was a decent start for Shields on Tuesday against the Twins. With the bases loaded in the sixth inning of a tie game, Shields plunked Brian Buscher. Tampa Bay lost, 4-3, prompting Shields to say: "You can pretty much put that game on me. ... I think I let my teammates down." Shields went 6 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on seven hits and four walks. Next up is Boston, a team against whom Shields is 2-5 in his career with a 5.59 ERA in nine starts.

Tidbits
The Red Sox have won 13 of their past 16. ... Over that span, the Sox lead the American League with 109 runs. ... Dustin Pedroia reached base five times in Saturday's game, going 2-for-2 with three walks. ... Slugger David Ortiz is still looking for his first homer.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN, TBS

On radio
• WRKO 680, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 1-2, 5.40) at Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 1-0, 3.13), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 2-2, 7.22) at Yankees (A.J. Burnett, 2-0, 5.40), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (Justin Masterson, 2-1, 4.37) vs. Indians (Carl Pavano, 1-3, 7.46), 7:10 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.