Ellsbury hit Andy Pettitte's second pitch of the game over the right-field bullpen, and Jonny Gomes added a two-run shot in the second inning to help the Red Sox return from the All-Star break with a 4-2 victory over the depleted New York Yankees on Friday night.
"It seems like he's been hitting .700," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "His timing has been much more Jacoby-like. And his ability to get on base speaks for itself with the havoc he can create."
Felix Doubront outpitched Pettitte in the opener of the three-game series to help AL East-leading Boston maintain a 2½-game lead over Tampa Bay in the division and open a seven-game cushion over its fourth-place rivals from New York.
"You can't take too much of it, but obviously this is an important stretch for us that we are in," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We understand that. The next three teams we play are all in front of us. We need to play well."
Ellsbury also singled in the third inning and reached on a walk in the seventh to support Doubront (7-3), who allowed three or fewer earned runs for the 12th start in a row. Doubront has six quality starts against the Yankees in six tries.
The last Red Sox pitcher to open his career with as many quality starts, defined as six innings pitched and three or fewer runs allowed, against the Yankees was Dutch Leonard -- in 1913-15.
"Look at the last two months. He's pitched extremely well since the end of May," Girardi said. "And he's been tough on us."
Ellsbury hit .360 in June and is batting .370 in July, putting together a 19-game hitting streak that was snapped just before the break. He had three hits in the first-half finale, then went 2 for 3 on Friday night to raise his average to .308.
"Not the way you want to start the second half, first batter of the game hitting a home run off you," Pettitte said. "Can't keep going out there and giving up 2-3-4 runs in the first or second inning. ... The long ball hurt me."
Doubront held a Yankees lineup without Derek Jeter and a handful of other regulars hitless until Lyle Overbay doubled to lead off the fifth inning. In all, the Red Sox left-hander gave up two runs -- one earned -- on three hits and three walks while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings.
Koji Uehara pitched the ninth for his ninth save.
Pettitte (7-7) gave up four runs on six hits and a walk, striking out four in 6 1/3 innings.
Three days after the New York Mets showed their support for the city in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings by playing "Sweet Caroline" at the All-Star game, the Red Sox thanked the Yankees by playing "New York, New York."
The Yankees made their first visit to Fenway Park this season for the first game after the break, and Robinson Cano played after being hit on the knee by a pitch in the All-Star game. But the lineup barely resembled the team New Yorkers thought would be wearing pinstripes at this point in the season.
Jeter was placed on the disabled list before the game -- he's spent all but one game there this season -- and the Yankees are also missing third baseman Alex Rodriguez, first baseman Mark Teixeira (wrist surgery), outfielder Curtis Granderson (broken pinkie) and catcher Francisco Cervelli (broken hand).
The lineup was further depleted when left fielder Zoilo Almonte came out of the game in the fifth inning with a left ankle sprain; X-rays were negative. And center fielder Brett Gardner took himself out when, after being called out on a 3-2 pitch to end the top of the fifth, he slammed his helmet on the ground and was ejected by home plate umpire Mike Everitt.
"I have to have better control of my emotions. I put us in a bad spot and caused some guys to play out of position," Gardner said. "I was frustrated. I feel I let the team down and I'm sorry for that."
That left the Yankees ill-equipped to come back after Boston took a 3-0 lead on the homers.
New York made it 3-1 when Gardner walked, stole second and scored when he stole third and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw went into left field. Chris Stewart doubled home Overbay in the fifth to cut the deficit to one run.
The Red Sox added a run in the seventh, then Ichiro Suzuki singled over the shortstop's glove and Cano doubled to put runners on second and third with one out in the eighth. But Craig Breslow got Vernon Wells to fly out weakly to short and Luis Cruz grounded to shortstop; Jose Iglesias' throw pulled first baseman Mike Napoli off the bag, but he made the tag for the third out.
The Yankees put Jeter on the disabled list before the game with a strained right quadriceps. ... The Yankees signed INF Brent Lillibridge from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... Pettitte had allowed just 19 hits in 100 at-bats against lefties coming into the game before Ellsbury hit a leadoff homer. It was the third homer against him by a lefty in his last four starts. ... Boston OF Shane Victorino left the game with left hamstring tightness. ... It was the latest the Yankees have played their first game of the season at Fenway, except for the strike-shortened season of 1981. ... The Red Sox placed RHP Andrew Bailey on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to July 13) with a right shoulder strain. To fill his spot on the 25-man roster, right-hander Jose De La Torre was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.