Ellsbury benched for Subway Series opener

When an opponent starts a left-handed pitcher, as the Mets are doing Friday night, Yankees manage Joe Girardi occasionally gives one of his left-handed hitting outfielders a night off. Not in Friday night’s Yankees lineup at Citi Field was Jacoby Ellsbury.

This should not come as a surprise considering the slump the center fielder has been in this month. Ellsbury is batting .123 with no extra-base hits or RBI in 57 September at-bats and has stolen merely one base. He has three hits in his past 38 at-bats, a .079 stretch that included a hitless string of 25 at-bats that he ended with two hits Wednesday night at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Ellsbury, who was sidelined for seven weeks in the first half of the season due to a right knee sprain, says he is healthy but he has not been the same hitter since he came off the disabled list. He was batting .324 with 14 stolen bases at the time of the injury but in 247 at-bats since his return July 8 Ellsbury has hit .211 with four steals as his season batting average has plummeted to .253.

As it was, this was not an easy decision for Girardi because Brett Gardner, who was the leadoff hitter Friday night and shifted from left field to center, entered the game hitless in his past 15 at-bats since his three-homer, seven-RBI performance in a doubleheader last Saturday against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are 9-8 in inter-league play this season and are on a four-game winning streak against the National League. They won two of three games in this year’s first Subway Series back in April at the Stadium, long before the Mets played their way into postseason contention.

Yankees batters have hit 23 home runs in 17 inter-league games and have scored at least 10 runs in three of their past four games. In inter-league play this season, the Yankees lead all clubs in on-base percentage (.364) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.843) and rank second in runs (108), batting (.290) and slugging (.480).

Yankees pitchers have a 4.89 ERA in 17 inter-league games and 152 2/3 innings after producing a 2.94 ERA in 183 2/3 innings last year, the third-lowest mark in the majors. Yankees starters have a 5.61 ERA in 94 2/3 innings this season and have allowed at least 5 earned runs in six of 17 starts.

Yankees pitchers are 1-for-18 (.056) in inter-league play this year. Branden Pinder ended a team 0-for-30 with an RBI double Aug. 30 at Atlanta, the first hit by a Yankees pitcher Chase Whitley May 14, 2014 at Citi Field, the first extra-base hit since Andy Pettitte’s double June 19, 2009 at Miami and the first RBI since CC Sabathia’s RBI groundout Aug. 2, 2013 at San Diego. Pinder was the second Yankees reliever in the designated hitter era (since 1973) to get a hit. The other was Mike Stanton June 6, 2000 at Montreal. Yankees pitchers have batted a combined .091 with nine doubles, 13 RBI and 45 sacrifice hits in 385 inter-league at-bats.

The Yankees are 3-4 in NL parks this season and are on a three-game winning streak. The Yankees lead the majors in all-time inter-league victories (201) and winning percentage (.593). They have posted a winning inter-league record in 15 of 18 seasons.

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