The Sox offense has been on a tear since the end of July, especially at Fenway Park. They entered last night's game with a .319 batting average over the course of nine straight wins at home, and have been averaging 5.8 runs a game over the last 10 at home.
There are plenty of reasons why the Sox offense has exploded. Victor Martinez is the easiest development to point to for the Sox. V-Mart is hitting .329 with six homers and 30 RBIs since coming to Boston, and he has made the entire batting order better by becoming the everyday No. 3 hitter. Quite simply, with Martinez in the lineup, Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew become the best seventh and eighth hitters in the AL.
David Ortiz has hit more homers than any other player in the league since June 6. He's swinging like the old Big Papi once again, and that is a big reason why the Sox began last night's game with 71 homers since July 30. No major league team has hit more in that stretch.
Having said all that, don't overlook the change at the top of the order. Jacoby Ellsbury has become the leadoff hitter Boston always hoped he would be. Ellsbury got on base two more times last night, and has 53 multiple-hit games this season. That ties him with Toronto's Aaron Hill for fourth-most in the American League.
Coming into the game, Ellsbury was batting .342 over his previous 20 games. He had the fourth-best batting average in the league on two-strike counts and was a remarkable .324 after falling into an 0-2 hole. That would be the best average by a Sox hitter in that situation since Mike Greenwell 21 years ago.
Hard to believe this was a guy that had been bumped out of the leadoff spot by the end of May. Ellsbury was batting eighth, sometimes ninth, as the Sox wanted him to work on being more disciplined at the plate. Ellsbury had a .299 batting average at the end of May, but a disappointing .332 on base percentage.
The move to the lower echelons of the lineup didn't last long. By July 20, Ellsbury was reinserted as the everyday leadoff man. He has done exactly what they've asked, bringing his OBP up steadily over the course of the season. It's now at .350, with a batting average of .300 to boot.
Oh, yeah. He also leads Major League Baseball with 61 stolen bases, a Red Sox record. He has been the team's spark plug during its recent surge, reaching base safely to lead off six of the team's last nine games. Of those six times he's reached to lead off, he has reached via hit three times, and has walked safely three more times. So there's no doubt that he has become more selective at the plate.
Point is, while Sox fans are getting giddy about the heart of the order, let's not overlook the tweak that was made at the top of the lineup. Ellsbury has been exactly what the Red Sox need to start things each night. He was one of the offensive stars of the 2007 World Series, and after a somewhat disappointing sophomore season, he is back where he belongs in these final days of 2009.