BOSTON - Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka were the unquestioned leading story lines heading into this series, and both helped the Yankees stick it to the Red Sox Tuesday night.
With Ellsbury getting the ball rolling with a leadoff triple and Tanaka continuing his early-season dominance, the Yankees coasted to a 9-3 win in front of 37,041 at Fenway Park.
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The Yankees (12-8) improved to 4-1 this season against the Red Sox (9-12).
Ellsbury, a Red Sox for the entirety of his career before signing a seven-year, $153 million deal over the winter, was booed heartily upon being introduced in the first inning but received a warm round of applause between the first and second innings when a tribute video was shown. The centerfielder tripled and scored in a two-run first against Jon Lester, then doubled in two runs in a four-run fifth that blew the game open.
"I thought the fans were great,'' Ellsbury said. "I thought the reception was nice. The tribute the Red Sox gave on the video board [was] unexpected. I thought it was very classy for them to do that.''
Ellsbury missed a home run by a few feet in the first, with the umpires originally giving him a ground-rule double when a fan reached over the centerfield wall but changing it to a triple. The first of Derek Jeter's two RBI singles brought in Ellsbury to make it 1-0. Carlos Beltran's single, after a passed ball and an error moved Jeter to third, made it 2-0.
"I was hoping it was going to be a homer, missed it by a foot or two,'' Ellsbury said, smiling. "It's nice. You want to do well, you want to go out there and put on a good performance. It was nice to get a triple right off the bat.''
He also showed his former fans what they'd be missing all season in the field, making a fine sliding catch against leadoff man Grady Sizemore in the first. Ellsbury heard the boos after making the catch, but he knows the deal for opposing players.
"The louder the boos,'' he said, smiling again, "the better you're playing.''
Tanaka (3-0, 2.15), while not as overpowering as in his first three starts, still acquitted himself just fine in his first appearance against the Red Sox, at Fenway no less.
He allowed two runs, seven hits and no walks in 71/3 innings. He struck out seven, more than a few on his darting splitter, giving him 35 strikeouts and only two walks. He did give up long, and loud, homers to David Ortiz and Mike Napoli back to back in the fourth that cut the lead to 4-2, but that was it.
"He just kept them off balance,'' Jeter said of Tanaka, who has not lost a game since Aug. 19, 2012, when he pitched for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. "He'll throw any pitch at any time. As a hitter, that's tough. Whether he's ahead of you, behind you, he really has no one particular pitch he's going to go with.''
Lester (2-3, 2.67) dropped to 12-6 in 28 starts against the Yankees. He was hit hard throughout, although the lefty didn't receive much help from his defense. He allowed 11 hits and eight runs -- only three earned -- in 42/3 innings.
Brian McCann had three hits and Beltran, Ichiro Suzuki and Brian Roberts each added two, with Beltran smashing his fifth homer in the eighth to make it 9-2.
"He's been extremely tough on us,'' Joe Girardi said of Lester. "We had guys with a lot of good at-bats tonight. Our guys did a nice job today.''