Let’s be honest, the Red Sox are beyond redemption at this point. But the best consolation prize in Boston, a city that thrives on revenge, is delivering a damaging punch to the Yankees.
Jacoby Ellsbury celebrated his birthday in grand fashion on Tuesday night, his walk-off single beating the Yankees, 4-3, and touching off an actual celebration at Fenway Park.
Ellsbury’s fourth hit of the night scored Pedro Ciriaco from second base and dropped the Yankees into a tie for first place in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-2.
The Yankees, who have lost eight of 12, have five more games left against the Sox. There is plenty of motivation on both sides of baseball’s best rivalry.
“Nothing would be more awesome than knocking these guys out of the playoffs,” said catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who noted the same would be true of the Rays and Orioles. “At this point, we have to accept this role and run with it.”
The Sox used three singles to win the game. Yankee killer Pedro Ciraco singled to left with one out against David Robertson (1-7) and took second on an infield single to the left side by Mike Aviles.
Ellsbury was next and he bounced a high changeup into right field. Ichiro Suzuki made an accurate throw to the plate but Ciriaco beat it and the Red Sox mobbed Ellsbury as he rounded first base.
“That was a great feeling,” Ellsbury said. “The fans were great tonight, they were into the game, energetic. … Just trying to get a pitch I could drive. Just trying to get something I could hit to the outfield.”
Ellsbury, who turned 29, had his first four-hit game of the season. He also had an RBI single in the third inning and later scored a run on a single by Dustin Pedroia.
The last Red Sox player to have four hits on his birthday was Carl Yastrzemski on Aug. 22, 1976.
• Ciriaco was 2 for 3 with a sacrifice. He is 17 of 35 in nine games against the Yankees this season with 11 runs scored, seven RBIs and four stolen bases. Ciriaco also made two nice plays at third base.
“Not much fun. He’s been killing us this year,” Derek Jeter said. “His last at bat, the ball is almost on the ground and he gets a hit. He enjoys playing us.”
• Jon Lester had a career-worst seven walks. But his five strikeouts gave him 1,044 for his career, passing Bruce Hurst for the most by a lefthander in Red Sox history. Lester is seventh overall.
• Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the victory, his first with the Red Sox. It came with some valuable assistance from Ryan Lavarnway.
Nick Swisher singled with one out and was replaced by Eduardo Nunez. With Alex Rodriguez up, Nunez tried to steal second and was thrown out by Lavarnway. The rookie catcher had caught only one runner in 21 previous tries this season.
“Andrew did a great job of giving me a chance,” said Lavarnway, who started his third consecutive game in place of an injured Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “If he’s 1.5 [seconds] to the plate, I’m not throwing Nunez out. He gave me a chance. I handled the pitch well and [Pedroia] made a great tag on him.”
Bailey then ended the inning by striking out an overmatched Rodriguez with a 96-mph fastball.
• Bailey, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. The bullpen allowed one hit and struck out four, giving the Sox a chance for only their third walk-off this season.