Florida pitcher Chris Volstad retired five of the first six hitters he faced, cruising through a relatively painless first inning and retired David Ortiz and Mike Lowell on just six pitches in the bottom of the second inning.
But that's when he got to the Red Sox leadoff hitter.
Jacoby Ellsbury jumped on a curveball at the knees and yanked it into right field for a two-out single. He then stole second on the first pitch Volstad threw to Nick Green.
When Green hit a high chopper over the mound and the ball squibbed through the bare hands of Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez, Ellsbury tore around second base and scored. The ball never reached the outfield grass.
1-0, Red Sox.
Ellsbury might hit second in the Red Sox lineup these days -- but once a leadoff hitter, always a leadoff hitter, right?
"It almost feels like I'm batting second," Green said, "because I've a guy that can get on and run and steal second and give me a chance to knock him in."
Ellsbury, ever the speedster, had cleared out of the locker room by the time it was opened to reporters. But his production speaks for itself. He's now hitting .366 and OBP'ing .449 since Terry Francona dropped him out of the leadoff spot in the batting order. On Tuesday against Florida, he singled twice, stole second base twice and scored twice.
In the fourth inning, he drove the first pitch into center field for a single. He then stole second on the second pitch to Green -- "I'll let him run until I get a strike," the shortstop said -- and scored when Green rifled a double into the left-field corner.
That made it 4-1. By the end of the inning, it was 8-1.
"He's swung the bat great -- and with his speed, he can get to second base as soon as he gets on first," Green said. "That's huge -- to keep us out of the double play and to give us a chance to what I did with a defensive swing and get an RBI."
The bottom three hitters in the batting order -- Ellsbury, Green and catcher George Kottaras -- all had terrific games at the plate. Together, the trio went 6-for-12 with three RBI and four runs scored.
"It seems like it's always someone different every night and a different part of the order doing it," Kottaras said. "As a team, we had some good at-bats today and put some stuff together."
But it didn't start until Ellsbury got it going. It's almost as if he's already got a 22-game hitting streak under his belt this season.
"It's not like he was struggling," Green said. "He's hitting well, so moving down is just one of those things -- if it helps the lineup run smoother, it's one of those things he's capable of doing and willing to do. He's done a great job of handling it. He's done a great job down there, too."