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Art of the steal: Ellsbury edition

PHILADELPHIA -- Jacoby Ellsbury, modern art collector?

In a manner of speaking, yes. A highly specialized form, but one for which Ellsbury doesn't have to worry about outbidding anybody. You can be Warren Buffett rich and have no chance of lining your walls with the personalized pieces Ellsbury is assembling.

The Philadelphia Phillies, in a gesture made up in equal parts of graciousness and respect, added to Ellsbury's collection Thursday night, giving him a 15-inch square white canvas bag, filled with soft material, to match the two he already has at home.

The bag has a name: a major league base. Ellsbury was given one by the Red Sox when he broke Tommy Harper's club record of 54 stolen bases in 2009. The Sox gave him another after he stole his majors-leading 70th base that same season. And Thursday night, the Phillies gave him a third, in recognition of the club-record five bases he stole in Citizens Bank Park during Boston's 9-2 win over the home team. This one he didn't have to steal; it was a gift.

"Pretty neat," he said. "Nice of them."

And yes, Ellsbury said, it's suitable for hanging.

"You can cut off the bottom and stick it on the wall," said Ellsbury, indicating that's what was done with the first two.

Power wash them first?

"Leave 'em dirty," Ellsbury said. "As they are."

Ellsbury reached base on his first five trips Thursday night and came within a whisker of his fourth hit on his sixth plate appearance, a lunge by Phillies rookie second baseman Cesar Hernandez sufficient to collar his ground ball in the ninth.

He led off the game with a single, took third on a base hit by Daniel Nava and scored on an infield out by Dustin Pedroia. He walked and stole second in the second, singled and stole second in the fourth, then was hit in the back by a chest-high pitch in the sixth, for which he obviously took some umbrage, stealing second and third in the span of a four-pitch walk to Nava.

Ellsbury admitted as much, though he said he didn't know whether Phillies pitcher Jeremy Horst, who drew a warning issued to both teams, had deliberate intent in his heart.

Sox manager John Farrell didn't think much of Bill Miller's warning both teams, which had the effect of squashing any designs the Sox might have had in terms of retaliation.

"I had a different opinion," Farrell said. "If it was that blatant ... "

He left the sentence unfinished, the rest of the thought being, Miller should have given Horst the heave. "I can't say it was intentional," Farrell said, "but baseball etiquette allows it to play out."

But Farrell obviously loved how Ellsbury added injury to Philly's insult.

"I think he responded to a hit by pitch the way you should," Farrell said. "Consecutive steals of second and third. He responded in a good way."

Ellsbury then singled in the eighth, stole second and took third on a throwing error by Phillies catcher Erik Kratz.

"Usually when I get to three or four, the game gets out of hand and I have to shut down the run game," Ellsbury said. "It was nice be able to get a fifth one."

He imagined he's done it in a game before -- in high school in Oregon, after all, he not only was never thrown out stealing, but said he can't recall ever having to slide.

Stealing five bases in a big league game has been accomplished only 20 times since 1916. Carl Crawford was the last to do so, swiping six bases on May 3, 2009, a Sunday afternoon in the Trop, with Ellsbury watching from center field. Coincidentally, Ellsbury was thrown out stealing in his only attempt that afternoon, for just the third time all season.

Only two players -- Eric Young and Alex Cole -- have done it twice. Young stole six in a game for the Rockies, then five for the Cubs. Cole stole five bases twice for the Indians.

Jonny Gomes figures he might have stolen four bases in a game somewhere along the line, though the most he's ever stolen in a big league game is two.

"But not five, not like that," he said. "I catch people off guard. Jake does it when the whole place knows he's going. I've seen some of the fastest base-runners in the game not steal bags. There's a lot more to it than just being fast. Five bags tonight, pretty special."

The night before, the Phillies had enjoyed free rein on the bases, stealing four bases. Ellsbury said he didn't enjoy the view and, yes, might have been inspired to answer in return.

"Definitely," he said. "Just watching from center field, that puts a lot of strain on the defense, especially early, when you get someone on with no outs. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense to make plays. I don't like it when teams run on us."

Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was victimized Wednesday but threw out Domonic Brown on Thursday night in the Phillies' only stolen-base attempt, said it was nice to be on the other side.

"Anytime you can try and push the game like that, make the other team make mistakes -- whether it's legging out a double or stealing a base -- that's a huge part of his game," Saltalamacchia said. "We're going to need him to do that."

Ellsbury leads the majors with 21 stolen bases. He has been caught just twice, a success rate of better than 91 percent.

"I've always stolen at a high rate," said Ellsbury, who began his major league career with 25 steals before being caught. "That's the biggest thing. You don't like to run into outs, but being a base-stealer, that's going to be part of it. You're going to get caught.

"But tonight was a great night."

Suitable for framing.