Ellsbury gives Yanks boost before Blue Jays series

Welcome back, Jacoby Ellsbury. Oh, sure, he has been back with the Yankees for a month now, but to be honest the center fielder has been quiet at the plate for much of that time.

Until Thursday night, that is. Ellsbury got all of a 2-1 pitch from Red Sox lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez for a home run into the second deck in right field in the seventh inning that unlocked a 1-1 score and sent the Yankees toward a 2-1 victory.

The timing could not have been better. With the Blue Jays running their winning streak to five games on the eve of coming to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series, the Yankees maintained their 4 1/2-game lead over Toronto in the American League East. Friday night’s matchup pits former National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey for the Blue Jays against the Yanks’ Nathan Eovaldi, who has the best winning percentage (.846) in the major leagues with an 11-2 record.

CC Sabathia did not have to worry about dehydration with a more pleasant evening humidity-wise and gave the Yankees six strong innings (one run, three hits, three walks, eight strikeouts), and the bullpen trio of Justin Wilson (4-0), Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller (24-for-24 in saves) worked a scoreless inning apiece to put this one away.

Ellsbury had combined with Brett Gardner to form a productive 1-2 punch at the top of the order over the first two months of the season but missed 43 games because of a sprained right knee. Since coming back, Ellsbury batted .196 with three doubles, one triple, three home runs and 16 RBI in 97 at-bats as his season batting average shrunk from .324 to .275. He was in a 3-for-25 (.120) slump before getting hits in his last two at-bats of the game.

While his defense in center field has been superb since early July, Ellsbury seemed to be feeling his way back offensively. His fifth home run of the season was certainly hit with authority, and it was good to see Gardner and him teaming up once more. They each scored one of the Yankees’ runs Thursday night.

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