Due for a big hit, Ellsbury comes up clutch

Due for a big hit, Ellsbury comes up clutch

NEW YORK -- Jacoby Ellsbury was overdue.

Heading into Thursday night's series finale with the Red Sox, the center fielder was 3-for-his-last-23 -- struggling to generate the type of production he's usually known for while hitting .196 over his previous 30 games. Physically, he and manager Joe Girardi both said he was fine after coming off the disabled list on July 8. Soon enough, they said, Ellsbury would make some meaningful contact.

That moment came Thursday night in a 2-1 victory over the Red Sox, when Ellsbury blasted a tiebreaking seventh-inning homer over the right-field fence to give the Yanks the lead for good. It was Ellsbury's fifth homer of the season, and second off Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.

Ellsbury's go-ahead solo shot

"I had said earlier [Thursday] that I really liked his at-bats Sunday [in Chicago] and Tuesday," Girardi said. "He had big at-bats tonight. He had had some success off of [Rodriguez] before. A couple big hits today and a really big one late in the game."

It could have been just the boost Ellsbury needed, as he has now hit four home runs in his last 21 games after smacking just one long ball through his first 40.

"I think sometimes when you're not swinging as well as you can and some of those little bloopers don't fall for you, it makes it look a little worse," Ellsbury said. "But I've been feeling pretty comfortable at the plate. I just knew it was a matter of time before the results, as far as hits and stuff like that was going to happen.

"Just continue with all the work I do before the game, after the game. I just knew it was a matter of time before good things happened."

As he stood on deck watching Ellsbury's at-bat in that seventh inning, Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner relished in seeing his teammate have some success again.

"I think everybody has their turns," Gardner said. "Early in the season, before he injured his knee, he was really, really swinging the bat well and getting on base at a really high rate, and that's not something you can really sustain for a whole season. So we're going to have our ups and our downs, but if we can get back to doing our thing at the top of the order, getting on base a lot and running, getting in scoring position for those guys, we'll be able to score some runs.

"This guy is a lot of fun to play with, fun to watch him work. Big swing."

Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.