Jacoby Ellsbury appeared in a starring role for the Yankees on Saturday. It’s become a rarity this season, but it was more than welcome as the Yanks defeated the Mariners 6-3 at the Stadium in a battle of wild card contenders.
Ellsbury went 2-for-4 with a home run and drove in the first four Yankee runs. He roped a run-scoring single to left in the second inning for 1-0 lead, a play that ended with Greg Bird being thrown out trying to score a second run from second. And in the fourth, he hit a three-run homer to right for a 4-1 lead.
“I was happy that today I could come through for the team and we could get a nice win,” he said.
Ellsbury has seen his role on the team diminished. The starting centerfielder when the season began, he is now the club’s fourth outfielder. Saturday’s start against Seattle was only his fourth in the past two weeks.
He was hitting to a .281/.349/.422 slash line when he collided with the outfield wall during the May 24 game against Kansas City. He missed a month with a concussion and sprained neck. He hit just .186 in his first 33 games back. And when Aaron Hicks came back from an oblique strain and produced at the plate, roles got reshuffled.
“I think he’s handled it pretty well. It’s not easy when you’ve been the player that Jake has been and not play every day,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But he’s ready every day . . . He cares about winning and the fact he’s prepared every day tells me a lot about him.”
Ellsbury doesn’t like talking about himself. When asked whether the changing role has disappointed him, he replied “I just prepare each day like I am going to start – that’s how I go about it.”
“[You] do everything you can — the video room, the batting cage, early work in the field — you’re just ready when your number is called,” he added.
Ellsbury has made the most of his opportunities. In the four starts over the past two weeks, he is 5-for-15 with a pair of home runs and six RBI. Girardi said he will try to give him more starts.
The Yankees haven’t provided much run support for starter Sonny Gray since he was acquired July 31 from Oakland, so Ellsbury’s three-run shot had a palpable effect for a team watching him craft another fine outing.
“The three-run homer: that was a huge hit because that rally started with no one on and two outs,” Girardi said. “For him to come up big like that, it really relaxed them.”
“Any time you put hard work in,” Ellsbury said, “it’s nice to reap the rewards of the hard work.”