BOSTON — So which $150 million player beat the Red Sox on Tuesday night?

Jacoby Ellsbury made his first return to Fenway Park in the Yankees gray, and went 2 for 5 with a triple, double and two runs.

Then there was Masahiro Tanaka throwing his split fastball with devastating results, holding Boston to two runs over 71/3 innings.

Either way, Boston couldn’t match up in a 9-3 loss.

Just one game, right?

Much has been made of the Yankees’ half-billion-dollar spending spree in the offseason, and New York’s quick, expensive fix is working in this young season.

The Yankees (12-8) lead the AL East. Boston (9-12), which had a chance at both Ellsbury and Tanaka, is in last.

But it’s early, right?

Boston Manager John Farrell was reminded that no Red Sox team ever made the playoffs after having a losing record through 20 games.

“There’s a first time for everything,” Farrell said with a smile. “I understand the history but we’ve done some pretty special things with this group. We’re confident we will again.”

To do that, Boston will need better from Jon Lester than it got Tuesday night (11 hits, four walks in 42/3 innings). Lester got no help from the defense. Errors from A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli made five of Lester’s eight runs allowed unearned. Plus a late jump by right fielder Grady Sizemore turned an out into an RBI single.

Meanwhile, Tanaka was dealing.

“Tanaka has pitched great for us,” Ellsbury said. “Pretty unique for a guy who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues. He’s just done a tremendous job so far.”

Tanaka (3-0) features some outrageous statistics. He is 31-0 in his last 20 months of professional ball, counting his victories in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Tanaka features a split-finger fastball that has players often swinging for air. When Tanaka gets two strikes on batters, they are in some kind of trouble. Opponents are batting .081 with two strikes, including 35 strikeouts this year.

Boston actually did better than the trend, going 2 for 16 (.125) with two strikes, including a Mike Napoli double.

And the Red Sox did get to Tanaka with David Ortiz and Napoli hitting back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning.

But overall Tanaka looks like a good signing. His $155 million contract runs through 2020, although he can opt out after 2017.

Boston could have gone after Tanaka but already had a rotation set with several prospects on the way. New York needed him more.

As for Ellsbury, Boston could sure use him.

“Very good player,” Farrell said. “Experienced a lot of success here in Boston.

“He’s been disruptive … against us.”

Ellsbury is batting .342 for the Yankees, including .368 (7 for 19) against his old team.

The Yankees signed Ellsbury for $153 million over seven years, with a $21 million option for an eighth year. Ellsbury was asked why he thought the Red Sox didn’t try harder to re-sign him.

“I’m not really going to get into that,” Ellsbury said. “I appreciated everything the (Red Sox) organization has done for me … I’m excited for the second part of my career, which is being a New York Yankee.

“With New York you think of the championships. I think of the history, the passion they have for the game. A lot of the same things the Red Sox have.

“But (the Yankees) gave me the opportunity to play seven more years in the big leagues – hopefully eight.”

Time will tell if this is a good sign for the Yankees. Ellsbury, 30, is a great player now, but 7-8 years is a long time.

As for the Red Sox, they look to rebound from Tuesday and from their stumbling April. There is pitching depth to depend on. Shane Victorino is likely back Wednesday. Will Middlebrooks is days away from returning.

Boston is still a good team. Right now, New York is better.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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