It didn’t take long for Jacoby Ellsbury to feel back at home at Fenway Park – even when wearing a road uniform.
The center fielder had a pair of big hits against the Boston Red Sox in his first visit with the Yankees, a performance he’d love to replicate Wednesday night against a pitcher New York has already hit hard this month.
Ellsbury was 2-for-5 on Tuesday with a double and triple, two runs scored and two RBIs in his first game as a Fenway visitor after playing 349 regular-season games there with the Red Sox. He set the tone early, leading off the game with a triple and scoring a first-inning run as New York went on to win 9-3.
”You want to go out there and put on a good performance,” Ellsbury said. ”It was nice to get a triple right off the bat, just allow us to score right from the get-go.”
The Yankees (12-8) have won back-to-back games after allowing 27 runs in their previous two, and will hand the ball to Michael Pineda. Pineda (2-1, 1.00 ERA) has gone six innings in all three of his starts, including a 4-1 victory over Boston on April 10 when he allowed a Daniel Nava homer and struck out seven.
Ellsbury heard a mixed reception Tuesday, but the reaction to Pineda doesn’t figure to include any cheers. The 6-foot-7 right-hander was shown by television cameras with what appeared to be pine tar on his right palm in his start against Boston 13 days ago.
Pineda said after the game the substance was nothing more than dirt. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he never saw it, while Boston manager John Farrell never brought it to the umpiring crew’s attention despite being made aware of it in the fourth inning.
Pineda shouldn’t need much help to pitch better than he did in his only previous experience at Fenway. That came with Seattle on July 24, 2011, when he allowed seven runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 12-8 loss.
He will be opposed by John Lackey (2-2, 5.25), who has lost his last two trips to the mound. The right-hander gave up six runs over 5 1-3 innings in an 8-4 loss to Baltimore on Friday, six days after allowing six in 5 2-3 – all coming on a career-worst four homers – in a 7-4 loss at Yankee Stadium.
Lackey has struggled versus AL East foes since signing with the Red Sox in 2010, going 16-17 with a 5.76 ERA. He has a 6.26 ERA in nine starts against New York since 2011.
"You have to be extra careful in this whole division," Lackey told the team’s official website following the loss to the Yankees earlier in the month. "I just have to do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard."
The Red Sox (9-12) could use some better production from the man who has replaced Ellsbury at the top of the order the past four games, outfielder Grady Sizemore. He’s 1 for 17 in the leadoff spot since Friday and in a 1-for-26 slump since April 15.
"(Grady) is squaring some balls up. He looks good at the plate, there’s just not much to show for it," Farrell said. "He’s putting the ball in play but he’s been in a little bit of a cold spell."
The trouble at the top of the lineup has impacted Boston’s offense as a whole. The Red Sox have averaged 3.76 runs through 21 games – 12th in the AL – after averaging 4.76 through their first 21 last season.
The leadoff spot could get a big boost soon when Shane Victorino is activated to make his season debut, a move that could come as soon as Wednesday.
Victorino has been out because of a strained hamstring, though Farrell would not guarantee the activation would take place yet. The Red Sox may instead call up an extra pitcher after their bullpen has thrown 11 innings the last two days.