BOSTON — Jacoby Ellsbury had already reminded the Fenway Park fans what they were missing _– a triple off the wall, a sprawling catch in center field to save an extra-base hit — when the Red Sox paid tribute to his Boston years.
A sellout crowd cheered the Ellsbury video highlights, backed by Springsteen’s “Born to Run”, and Ellsbury returned their salute with waves, smiles and a tip of the cap.
Afterward, Ellsbury kept giving the fans samples of his best work, even as their numbers steadily dwindled on a rainy Tuesday night.
Ellsbury added a two-run double and Masahiro Tanaka had a memorable Fenway debut start, pitching into the eighth inning of a 9-3 Yankees win before 37,041 fans.
The crowd had largely booed Ellsbury (2-for-5, 2 RBI) before his first at-bat, which elicited no reaction from the outfielder who signed a seven-year, $153 million free-agent contract, switching sides in baseball’s ages-old rivalry.
Ellsbury’s leadoff triple was just the
start of the Yankees’ damage against lefty starter Jon Lester (2-3), who yielded eight runs – only three earned – on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Tanaka (3-0) gave up two runs in 7 1/3 innings, with no walks and seven strikeouts.
In his fourth big-league start, Tanaka showed off his devastating splitter and rebounded after David Ortiz and Mike Napoli crushed back-to-back homers off him in the fourth, cutting the lead to 4-2.
Derek Jeter (2 RBI) extended his hitting streak to 11 games and Carlos Beltran clubbed an eighth-inning homer.
Ellsbury had batted .357 (5-for-14) against the Red Sox last week, when the Yankees won three of four games against the defending world champs at the Stadium.
“It was fun,” Ellsbury said of that first meeting, one he had also greeted with anticipation. “I had a feeling what their game plan was going to be a little bit, maybe some of their guys’ approach.”
Leading off Tuesday night’s game, Ellsbury immediately fell behind 0-and-2 before sending a drive off the center-field wall – close enough to a homer that a fan reached over and interfered with the ball.
After an umpires’ conference, the fleet Ellsbury was awarded a triple. A moment later, he trotted home on Jeter’s single.
Jeter quickly moved to third on catcher A.J. Pierzynski’s passed ball and throwing error, and scored on Beltran’s RBI hit.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the next two frames but missed opportunities as Beltran and Ellsbury each hit into inning-ending double plays – with Bosox second baseman Dustin Pedroia deftly backhanding Ellsbury’s grounder toward the middle and smiling at depriving his ex-teammate of an RBI.
But Ellsbury prevailed his next time up, in the fifth, lashing a two-run double to left-center that knocked Lester from the game on his 118th pitch.
Jeter greeted lefty Chris Capuano with an RBI single for an 8-2 lead, capping a four-run inning that almost didn’t materialize.
Running from first to second, Brian McCann nearly jogged back to the dugout after Brian Roberts’ two-out liner couldn’t be gloved by first baseman Napoli.
The ball sailed into right field, Mark Teixeira scored and Napoli was charged with an error — while a dugout full of Yankees screamed for McCann to retreat to second base.
Alfonso Soriano, Teixeira and McCann had opened the third inning with consecutive doubles, giving the Yanks a 4-0 lead. By then, the Red Sox faithful were treating Ellsbury as any random Yankee.
“I appreciated my time (in Boston), I appreciate what the organization has done for me,” said Ellsbury, glad to see the familiar faces of the Fenway employees he’d come to know since 2007, his rookie year.
Distributed by MCT Information Services