Ellsbury helps keep Sox in first place
Jacoby Ellsbury had played 237 games at Fenway Park without hitting a ball over the famed Green Monster in left field. A lefthanded hitter, Ellsbury’s power has been to right field and occasionally center.
So when he walked to the plate in the sixth inning last night, hitting a ball that would clear the wall may have been the last thing on his mind.
“I’ve done it in batting practice,’’ Ellsbury said. “Not in games.’’
But this has been a season of new beginnings and first times for Ellsbury. With the Red Sox needing a hit to take the lead against the Yankees, he drove a Boone Logan fastball deep into the night.
It sailed over the wall into the waiting hands of man in a green shirt. That fan has a nice memory and Ellsbury a better one as the Sox went on to a 9-5 victory.
“That was pretty cool,’’ Ellsbury said. “I’ve wanted to do that.’’
On a field full of MVP candidates, Ellsbury stood tallest. He is now hitting .313 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs from the leadoff spot.
With 27 games remaining, Ellsbury is one run shy of his career high of 98. He also had his 35th double last night. The home run was the first he has hit to the opposite field in his career and only his eighth off a lefthander.
“He’s been great all year long. There’s nothing he can’t do on a baseball field,’’ teammate Dustin Pedroia said. “We’re glad he’s on our team. He’s a force at the top of the lineup.’’
The two-run blast capped a three-run rally that saw the Red Sox take a 7-5 lead.
Josh Reddick started it by drawing a walk off Phil Hughes (4-5). Jason Varitek was next and took a swing that resembled that of a lumberjack taking down a tree. But the ball squirted down the left-field line for an RBI double, deflecting off a railing and rolling into the corner.
The Yankees called in Logan, a lefthander, to face Ellsbury.
Logan had struck out two batters with the bases loaded in the seventh inning Tuesday night to help the Yankees to a 5-2 victory. But he could not get Ellsbury to chase two sliders and went back to the fastball.
“Pretty good pitch away,’’ Ellsbury said. “I don’t expect that ball to go out, but it’s nice to see.’’
Ellsbury is hitting .332 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs since July 1.
“It’s always been there,’’ hitting coach Dave Magadan said. “I’m not surprised by it.’’
Winning pitcher Josh Beckett laughed, pointing out that Ellsbury is going to have a compelling case if he goes to salary arbitration with the Sox this winter.
“He’s meant so much to us,’’ Beckett said.
The Sox are now 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees in the division and 11-3 against their rivals this season. They will try to win the series tonight with Jon Lester on the mound opposing struggling A.J. Burnett, whose performance could determine whether he stays in the rotation.
Beckett (12-5) has been better, but he went seven innings to improve to 4-0 against the Yankees in five starts this season. He allowed four runs in the sixth inning, but shut down the Yankees in the seventh once the Sox took the lead back.
Beckett is the first Sox pitcher to win four games against the Yankees in a season since Al Nipper in 1987. Like Ellsbury, he has had a bounceback season.
“This is a guy we’ve relied on for so long now,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We were hoping he could come back with a vengeance and he has.’’
Daniel Bard set down the Yankees in order in the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon didn’t get a save, but stretched his streak of scoreless innings to 17. Sox pitchers retired the final 12 Yankees in order.
Trailing, 1-0, the Sox built a 2-1 lead in the third inning.
Marco Scutaro led off with a single and raced to third when Ellsbury doubled to left. With the infield back, Pedroia grounded to third base and Scutaro scored.
With two outs, the Yankees intentionally walked David Ortiz to get to Jed Lowrie, a .218 hitter against righthanders. That strategy was foiled when Lowrie lined an RBI single to right field.
The lead grew to 4-1 in the fifth. Adrian Gonzalez, hitless in his previous 13 at-bats against the Yankees, singled to right with two outs. Ortiz worked the count full and launched a low fastball several rows deep to center field.
It was his 28th home run and Big Papi took a leisurely stroll around the bases to enjoy it.
Beckett gave the lead away in the sixth. Robinson Cano had an RBI double as did Eric Chavez, a second run scoring when Reddick let the ball get by him in right field. Eduardo Nunez’s sacrifice fly gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead.
Once the Sox had the lead, Varitek helped secure it with a two-run homer in the eighth. The Sox finished with 12 hits.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@PeteAbe.