BOSTON — The Red Sox are feeling the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury — in more ways than one.
Ellsbury already has become a serious thorn in Boston’s side, making an impact in each of the Red Sox’s five games against the New York Yankees this season. The Yankees outfielder marked his return to Fenway Park on Tuesday with another big effort that shed light on both his dynamism and the problems the Red Sox face in the wake of his departure.
Ellsbury, who was greeted with mostly boos, began the Yankees’ 9-3 blowout win over the Red Sox with a triple off the center field wall. It set the tempo for the evening, which New York really seized control of with a four-run fifth inning.
“I was hoping it was going to be a homer,” Ellsbury joked of his game-opening triple. “I missed it by a foot or two. I didn’t see the replay, but I knew it was close. But yeah, it’s nice. You want to do well. You want to go out there and put up a good performance. It was nice to get a triple right off the bat and just allow us to (have Derek) Jeter score me right from the get-go, you know, 1-0 from the start. It was nice.”
The Yankees’ offense has a new look this season, and Ellsbury’s presence is a major reason why. The 30-year-old is one of baseball’s premier leadoff hitters, and he’s getting on base with regularity, especially against his former team.
Ellsbury, who went 2-for-5 with a triple, a double, two RBIs and two runs scored Tuesday, now is hitting .368 (7-for-19) against the Red Sox this season. He also has played solid defense — he robbed Grady Sizemore in the first inning — and the Yankees, by no coincidence, have won four of their five contests against the Sox.
“Right away,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury’s impact Tuesday. “He makes a big catch as well and had a big hit to get the score to 7-2 after (the Red Sox) climbed a little bit closer — they got it to 4-2. I thought he played extremely well.”
The Red Sox, meanwhile, haven’t found any consistency from the top spot in their order. Boston has used five different leadoff hitters in 21 games, including Sizemore, whose 0-for-4 effort in Tuesday’s loss made him 1-for-26 over his last seven games.
Will Ellsbury donning pinstripes be the difference in who wins the American League East this season? It’s way too early to make that type of declaration, especially since the Red Sox’s issues the last couple of games have been a product of subpar starting pitching and defense.
But with Ellsbury hitting .342 with eight RBIs and a .395 on-base percentage for a first-place Yankees team, the pill of losing the outfielder certainly isn’t going down easy for the Red Sox right now.