Jacoby Ellsbury was booed, and he was cheered. He was honored on the video board, occasionally jeered in the stands, and he was a difference maker in the box score.
“When I was with the Red Sox, you always knew how well you were playing by the boos (on the road),” Ellsbury said. “The louder the boos, the better you were playing. I was expecting it, but I thought they were great as a whole. I thought they were tremendous even at the end of the game.”
The Red Sox did not seriously pursue Ellsbury this winter, and tonight they were reminded of exactly what they’re missing. Jackie Bradley Jr. was a bit of an adventure in center field, and Grady Sizemore went 0-for-4 in the leadoff spot. Ellsbury, meanwhile, started the game with a triple, added a two-out, two-run double later in the game, and had a sliding catch in the first inning. He was almost certainly the most dynamic player on the field — speed, defense, an ability to drive the ball — and he was unquestionable difference maker.
No matter how much Ellsbury has tried to downplay the significant of switching sides in this rivalry, tonight’s game was absolute proof of just how significant his move could be.
“I mean, any time we win is a good game,” Ellsbury said. “I’m just happy to go out there and help the team win. But I thought the fans were great. I thought the reception was nice. The tribute the Red Sox gave on the video board was unexpected. I thought it was very classy of them to do that. … I spent nine years in that organization, gave that organization everything I had every day I stepped on that field. For them to take a moment to have some cheers, it was nice.”
· It’s impossible to ignore Ellsbury on a night like this, but if we’re writing about difference makers, Masahiro Tanaka’s name has to come up near the top of the list. He was tremendous again tonight pitching 7.1 innings and once again showing an ability to be completely in control of what might have been an overwhelming situation. “I think I was a little bit pumped up today,” Tanaka said. “Just because I know how good their lineup is, and also how small the stadium is, which is something I had in mind. But being on the mound, I didn’t feel anything special. Maybe down the road, once we get a little deeper into the season, I may be able to experience something a little deeper than what I experienced tonight.”
· The key for Tanaka, Joe Girardi said, was getting back on track after the back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning. He’d been cruising up to that point, but those were pretty bad pitches, and Tanaka allowed a double two batters later. If things were going to fall apart, that would have been the moment, but Tanaka rebounded with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. “Making an adjustment, getting right back on track and understanding what he needed to do to get people out,” Girardi said.
· Also key was the fact Tanaka walked no one. He gave up seven hits but gave no free passes while striking out seven. That’s been a defining characteristic through these first few starts. He’s hardly walked anyone, and he’s done that while striking out 35 batters. “Not particularly surprised, but the number of walks I’m giving up is satisfying,” he said.
· Tanaka’s 35 strikeouts are the most ever for a Yankees pitcher through his first four career starts, and tied for the third-most in Major League Baseball in the last 100 years. Stephen Strasburg had 41 strikeouts in his first four starts in 2010, Herb Score had 40 in 1955 and Jose DeLeon had 35 in 1983.
· Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He’s hitting .326 in those games. This is the 47th double-digit hitting streak of Jeter’s career, tying Tris Speaker for the third most double-digit hitting streaks in baseball history. Only Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron had more. Aaron had 48, so Jeter could move into a tie or maybe pass him later this year. Cobb had 66, so that record’s pretty well out of reach.
· Carlos Beltran hit his fifth home run of the season. He leads the Yankees in home runs and RBI (13).
· Jon Lester had gone 13 consecutive regular-season starts without allowing a first-inning run, but he coughed up two before he got a single out tonight. “He’s been extremely tough on us,” Girardi said. “Even he got some important double plays early that kept us from getting a few more runs, but we were able to tack on a few. Guys had a lot of good at-bats tonight. He’s been really tough on us. He was tough on us the other day at home, but our guys did a nice job today.”
· Girardi said he thought the umpires made the right call giving Ellsbury a triple in the first inning. I honestly thought it was an automatic double when if there’s fan interference, but obviously not. “There’s no doubt in my mind that’s a triple,” Girardi said. “I’ve seen him run too many times.”
· Everyone who came out of the game in the late innings — Jeter, Soriano — came out just to get a break. No one was hurt.
· We’ll give the final word to Jeter on Tanaka: “I could be wrong — I’m making an assumption — but I would assume that he’s been followed pretty closely over in Japan. I don’t think this is really anything new to him. He has a great presence on the mound, it doesn’t seem like he’s fazed by too much. He has a lot of confidence in his ability on top of having a lot of ability. He’s fun to play behind, he’s been fun to watch.”
Associated Press photos