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Jacoby Ellsbury breaks out of slump against Orioles

Jacoby Ellsbury of the Yankees roundd third base

Jacoby Ellsbury of the Yankees roundd third base after hitting a home run in the bottom of the second inning at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Credit: Errol Anderson

Jacoby Ellsbury had not gotten the tangible results, but he said he was feeling good at the plate despite a slump over the six games prior to the Yankees' 9-3 series-sweeping win over Baltimore on Thursday.

Ellsbury was a key part of the victory, which capped a three-game sweep of the defending AL East champions and gave the Yankees (53-41) a 5.5-game lead over second-place Toronto.

The centerfielder had been in a 3-for-26 (.115) slump before going 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs on Thursday. Ellsbury was a triple away from hitting for the cycle in the game.

"I felt good at the plate and connected on a few balls," he said.

That "good" feeling may have had something to do with Baltimore starter, Ubaldo Jimenez, who had allowed five hits to Ellsbury in nine previous at-bats.

"To be honest, I didn't know my numbers," Ellsbury said. "I think sometimes maybe you just see a guy a little bit better. There's no rhyme or reason."

Ellsbury started the game with a line-drive single to left center and smoked a homer to right in the second inning to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead. Jimenez was out of the game by his next time up, but Ellsbury hit a sacrifice fly to left off Tommy Hunter. He later slapped a line-drive double to left.

During his six-game slump, Ellsbury's line-drive rate was down to 13.6 percent, according to fangraphs.com. For the season, Ellsbury has hit line drives on 23.5 percent of balls he has put in play. Line-drive rate is typically a good indicator of how well a batter is hitting the ball.

"[Yesterday] it was nice to get a few line drives, get some guys on, drive them in," Ellsbury said.

Ellsbury had spent nearly two months on the disabled list with a right knee sprain before returning on July 8. The Yankees played five games and then hit the All-Star break, a four-day layoff. With Ellsbury back, the Yankees went 4-1 in the five games before the All-Star Game and are 5-1 to start the second half.

"I just think the All-Star break in a sense probably hurt him because he had only played four or five games and then he had another four days off," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Now that we're playing every day, he probably feels more comfortable."

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