Commentary

Red Sox ready to round into form

With Jacoby Ellsbury back and David Ortiz on the way, Boston's bats should wake up

Updated: August 24, 2011, 11:12 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Following the Boston Red Sox's 11-5 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, manager Terry Francona announced that the club's designated hitter, David Ortiz, who hasn't played since Aug. 14, will be back in the lineup Wednesday night.

That means Boston's offense will move another step closer to returning to potent form.

The slugger's presence is an important one; Ortiz was missed while being out the past nine games because of a bout of bursitis in his right heel. After his teammates pounded out 14 hits against the Rangers, Ortiz was asked what he planned on doing when he returns from his hiatus.

"Go deep," Ortiz said.

Ortiz was available to pinch hit Tuesday night, according to Francona, but he wasn't needed as the Sox rolled behind the return of Jacoby Ellsbury to the leadoff spot, along with a pair of home runs by Adrian Gonzalez.

Once Ortiz is penciled in, all the Red Sox need to be back at full strength will be Kevin Youkilis (back) and J.D. Drew (shoulder), both of whom are set to come off the disabled list Sept. 1.

"He's a big part of our lineup in the middle of the order and drives in runs," Ellsbury said of Ortiz. "He's a threat, so it'll be nice to have him back."

As has been the case so many times this season, everyone in the Sox's lineup contributed Tuesday night.

Gonzalez went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, Marco Scutaro chipped in with three RBIs and Dustin Pedroia added two RBIs. Carl Crawford, Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all knocked in a run as well. Jed Lowrie, Lavarnway and Saltalamacchia all contributed two hits apiece.

"It's great," Gonzalez said of the production throughout the lineup. "We haven't been scoring a lot of runs as we had in the last couple of months, so it's good to come out and do what we can do."

Francona has always said the Sox have a better lineup when Ellsbury is healthy and productive. When he gets the line moving from the leadoff spot, the Sox usually have success.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJacoby Ellsbury made an immediate impact in his return to the lineup with a leadoff single, stolen base and run scored in the first inning.

That was the case Tuesday, when Ellsbury returned to the lineup after missing three games with a bruised back.

He wasted no time, leading off the game with a single. He then stole second, reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Scutaro and scored on Gonzalez's two-run homer.

"He's back about 6 seconds and he's standing on third," Francona said. "That was nice. It's nice to see him healthy. He makes the plays in center and he's moving around. He impacts us a lot, obviously."

"It felt good to be back in the lineup," Ellsbury said. "I just wanted to bring some energy to the lineup and I want to set the tone from the get-go."

He did.

So did Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who entered Tuesday with just one homer since participating in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star break, had said he felt like the power was coming. During the previous series, in Kansas City, he connected on a few balls that he felt good about, but he wasn't rewarded for his swings because the ballpark was playing big and those barreled-up balls reached only the warning track.

After a 1-for-3 night in the first game against the Rangers on Monday, Gonzalez followed it up with his two home runs, his 19th and 20th of the season.

Gonzalez delivered a two-run homer in the top of the first inning, a monster blast to the upper deck in the right-field seats to give Boston a 2-0 lead. He added an opposite-field solo shot with two outs in the fourth as the Sox took a 7-3 lead.

"That's my swing," Gonzalez said. "If I can stay with it, that's when I'm going well, and I hope I can continue that and get on a little bit of a hot streak."

Gonzalez had gone 84 at-bats without a home run before Tuesday night. It was the 12th multihomer game of his career and second this season. His second home run was his 10th opposite-field shot this season, which leads the majors in that category, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Despite his long power drought, Gonzalez was still hitting for average, and his .346 mark leads the majors.

"I'm hitting for higher average this year," he said. "If I wasn't hitting for average and not hitting home runs, I would be worried about it, but I'm getting on base and hitting for average. The main thing is we're in a good position to be in the playoffs."

With the recent subtractions from Boston's offense, the negative effects were obvious. Now the Red Sox are getting back the pieces they need in order to be successful down the stretch and into the postseason.

"Jacoby being in the lineup is huge, and Papi being in the lineup [Wednesday] is going to be big as well," Gonzalez said. "The main thing is being healthy going into the playoffs. Hopefully we'll be in the playoffs if we keep winning. We just want everybody healthy."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE