BOSTON — Jacoby Ellsbury studied Andy Pettitte’s slow windup. He took a few steps toward home. Then he took off.
The Red Sox speedster slid headfirst, stirred up a cloud of dirt and looked at plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
“The biggest thing is getting the courage to go, I guess. In that situation, bases loaded, you’ve got to make it,” Ellsbury said after a 4-1 win Sunday night gave the Red Sox their 10th straight win and a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees. “I was pretty confident that I could get in there.”
His first steal of home since before college came in a three-run fifth inning after New York’s Brett Gardner and Boston’s David Ortiz hit sacrifice flies in the third.
Ellsbury decided to run after watching the lefthander’s previous pitch. Batter J.D. Drew didn’t know that but, as a left-handed hitter, saw him running and sliding under Jorge Posada’s swipe.
So did Pettitte.
“Obviously, that’s frustrating,” Pettitte said. “I was in the windup. I should have been in the stretch. Jorgie told me to keep an eye on him. I saw him in the corner of my eye and tried to speed up my windup.”
The Red Sox came from behind in all three games, went 9-0 on the homestand and are 12-6 after starting at 2-6.
“I don’t want to get carried away with what happened in this homestand,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “but it was a good homestand.”
In the fifth, Ortiz doubled in the go-ahead run before Kevin Youkilis was walked intentionally to load the bases. As Pettitte began his windup with third baseman Angel Berroa playing far off the bag, Ellsbury ran.
“There was no set play so I originally was going to go feet first. But then I saw J.D. kind of move that he saw me coming in, so at the last minute I decided to go headfirst,” he said. “I was just hoping J.D. wasn’t going to swing at a pitch right down the middle and hit me.”
When he did swing, he hit a ground-rule double that made it 4-1.
Justin Masterson (2-0) pitched 5¤ innings in his second start in place of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is on the disabled list. Takashi Saito pitched the ninth for his second save.
Pettitte (2-1) dropped to 17-2 in 24 starts when trying to prevent the Yankees from getting swept, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Yankees fell to 9-9.
“For me to get concerned is going to take a lot more than that,” Pettitte said.
Ellsbury’s steal was the latest dramatic play in the series.
The Red Sox won 5-4 Friday night when Jason Bay tied the game with a two-run homer off Mariano Rivera in the ninth and won it on Youkilis’ homer in the 11th.
Boston won 16-11 on Saturday, overcoming a 6-0 deficit with six RBIs from Mike Lowell in the seventh and eighth.
On Sunday, Pettitte struck out the side in the fourth. But in the fifth, he walked Jason Varitek, struck out Nick Green and walked Ellsbury. The runners stayed put on Dustin Pedroia’s fly out.
Ortiz doubled off the left-field wall, scoring Varitek and sending Ellsbury to third. Youkilis, who began the day with a major-league best .444 batting average, then was walked so Pettitte could face Drew, who already had struck out twice.
He should have paid more attention to Ellsbury.
“It shouldn’t happen, but it did,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who tried to alert Pettitte as the crowd roared. “We were screaming, but nobody can hear you here.”
Notes: Derek Jeter tied Mickey Mantle for the Yankees record of 8,102 career at bats when he struck out in the seventh. … Johnny Damon got the day off until he flied out as a pinch-hitter to end the game. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said his knee, shoulder and back are “a little banged up.” . … Capt. Richard Phillips of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama threw out a ceremonial first pitch. The resident of Jericho, Vt., spent five days as a hostage of Somali pirates. Jack Parker, coach of NCAA hockey champion Boston University also threw out a ceremonial pitch. … Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Lowell’s reached 10.
BOSTON — It was three hours into the game, and Mike Lowell was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts while stranding five baserunners.
The next two at-bats changed everything.
The former World Series MVP hit a three-run homer in the seventh to give the Red Sox the lead, then added a three-run double in the eighth in Boston’s 16-11 victory over the New York Yankees. It was Boston’s biggest comeback victory against the Yankees since 1968.
“It was going back-and-forth; it seemed like whoever was up last was going to win,” Lowell said. “You’ve got to be mentally prepared for every pitch.”
In all, 12 pitchers threw 385 pitches and managed to retire the side in order just twice — once for each team — in a 4 hour, 21 minute game that tied for the sixth-longest nine-inning game in baseball history. The two longest also were between the Yankees and Red Sox.
“Lot of pitching changes. Lot of runs. Lot of commercials,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “There’s that many pitches thrown, and it seems like every one is of consequence. It can drain you.”
Boston was trailing 6-0 before Jason Bay singled in a run and Jason Varitek hit a grand slam to make it 6-5 in the fourth. The Yankees led 10-9 in the seventh when they intentionally walked Bay — Friday night’s star — to face Lowell, and he homered off Jonathan Albaladejo (1-1) to make it 12-10.
The Yankees again walked Bay to get to Lowell in the eighth, and he drove in another three runs with a double off the Green Monster.
“His RBIs in the last few innings were the difference in the game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “In the first couple of at-bats, we weren’t able to get Bay out. That combination has really hurt us in this series so far.”
Hideki Okajima (1-0) got two outs for the win, then Ramon Ramirez got out of the eighth after putting runners on second and third with one out. Dustin Pedroia had three hits and Jacoby Ellsbury hit his first homer of the year for Boston.
Robinson Cano homered twice and drove in five for the Yankees.
Yankees star Jorge Posada was called for catcher’s interference and a passed ball in the same inning; Pedroia — the 2008 AL MVP — had a two-run error and got thrown out on a baserunning bungle. The teams swapped leads four times in fifth, sixth and seventh innings as Johnny Damon tied it with a two-run homer, David Ortiz hit a sacrifice fly put Boston on top and then the Yankees took the lead when Damon hit a hard grounder through Pedroia’s legs at second base.
The Yankees intentionally walked Bay, whose two-run homer with two out in the ninth helped Boston win the night before. Lowell homered off Albaladejo inside the foul pole to make it 12-10.
The Red Sox last rallied from six runs down to beat the Yankees on May 16, 1968, when they trailed 9-3 after four innings but came back to win 11-10.
“They never quit over there,” Damon said. “Score a run here, score a run there, and then Varitek hits a big grand slam. Then they ended scoring every inning after that.”
Notes: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, wearing a Red Sox jersey with No. 9.69 on the back for his record time in the 100 meters, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Boston ace Josh Beckett and New York’s A.J. Burnett, teammates on the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins, were the starters and neither made it past five innings after giving up eight runs for a no-decision. … Cano has hit safely in 12 straight games. … New York’s Mark Teixeira walked five times, once intentionally.