BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox dominated the New York Yankees en route to their 2013 World Series title, scoring more than six runs a game and winning 13 of 19 meetings. It was their best winning percentage in a season series between the rivals since 1990, when Boston was 9-4 against New York.
The new-look Yankees have turned the tables early in 2014 and improved to 4-1 versus the Sox after a 9-3 rout Tuesday night. Jacoby Ellsbury is a big reason why, and he helped showcase the disparity between the two teams in his return to Fenway Park for the first time since signing a $153 million contract with New York.
Ellsbury had a triple and a double and two RBIs, helping to provide an early exit for Jon Lester, who gave up eight runs (three earned) on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Lester received little help from his defense and offered up some trademark glares for plate umpire Quinn Walcott after feeling his strike zone had been squeezed early on. But the 11 hits were one shy of a career high, his four issued walks matched his total from the first four outings of the season, and the start as a whole represented an extreme departure from the norm for one of the team’s few constants.
Masahiro Tanaka clearly outshined Lester with 7 1/3 solid innings in his much-anticipated debut at Fenway Park. It’s early, but the Yankees have the decided advantage in 2014.
That’s how you lead off a game: While the Red Sox have struggled mightily to fill Ellsbury’s old spot atop the order, he is thriving for the Yanks (batting both first and third in the lineup). He had a quick answer for the boos he received stepping up to the plate for the first time, launching a shot to straightaway center that caromed off a dolt of a fan in a Bruins jersey and was ruled a triple.
Ellsbury scored the Yankees’ first run moments later and then robbed Boston leadoff man Grady Sizemore with a sliding catch in the bottom of the first.
By the way, Sizemore has one hit in his last 26 at-bats.
Thanks, Jacoby: Once the boos had been booed and Ellsbury was little more than a former player who once gave his all to help the Sox win two World Series titles, he was showered with applause after a video tribute was played following the first inning. Ellsbury was able to doff his cap and wave to the fans. And now we can all move on.
Ellsbury’s absence: Without Ellsbury and No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino in the mix, the Sox have managed a paltry two runs in the first inning this year. Their opponents have produced nine. Boston is 6-1 when it scores first and now 3-11 when the other guys do so.
The Red Sox have also been dominated in the third inning, especially in the past two days. Clay Buchholz gave up five straight singles and seven hits overall in the third inning Monday against Baltimore before being pulled with just one out. Lester surrendered three consecutive doubles to begin the third in this one, and after New York completed its two-run rally, Sox opponents had a 21-8 advantage in that frame this year.
Gopher balls: Tanaka’s one (slight) bugaboo has been the home run ball. He has given up four so far, including back-to-back bombs by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the fourth. Ortiz’s shot landed far beyond the Red Sox's bullpen and Napoli’s went down the left-field line and left the park in about a second. Ortiz’s homer measured at 482 feet, the second-longest in the majors this season (Giancarlo Stanton).
One out later, A.J. Pierzynski doubled within a few feet of a home run off the Green Monster. Tanaka’s splitter, when it fails to sink, can become rather hittable. That was the case in the fourth. He was perfectly fine the rest of the way.
Join the club, Jon: Excluding Felix Doubront’s most recent outing, Red Sox starters have been extremely hittable this most recent time through the rotation. Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy and John Lackey have combined to give up 38 hits in 18 innings in that span. When the offense is ho-hum and the defense downright stinks, you won’t win many games serving up so many hits.
Rehab updates: Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for Triple-A Pawtucket in his third rehab game Tuesday. Victorino is 1-for-11 in three rehab games and is expected to be activated Wednesday.
Even if the hits do not immediately come for Victorino, the Sox should benefit from his presence.
Up next: Boston carries a 4-7 home record into the second game of the three-game set. John Lackey, who gave up four home runs in his last start versus the Yankees, opposes Michael Pineda.