DETROIT — The carousel began on a sharply hit single to right field by Jacoby Ellsbury.
A stunning string of nine straight hits by the Yankees — against Tigers lefty David Price no less — contributed to an eight-run third inning Wednesday at Comerica Park. That’s a monumental achievement for a club that has often been starved for offense.
There wasn’t a home run in the bunch, but the Yankees happily grinded their way to an 8-4 victory fueled by a historic inning against the Tigers before 40,876 fans.
From Ellsbury as the leadoff man to Francisco Cervelli batting ninth, the Yankees collected nine straight hits for the first time in an AL game since Detroit did it in 1996. The defending NL champion Cardinals did it last season.
All the runs were charged to Price (12-10), and they were a gift for Yankees right-hander Shane Greene (4-1), who yielded two runs over seven innings.
Winners of six of their last seven games, the Yanks moved within 2 1/2 games of Seattle for the final AL wild-card spot.
The third-inning hit parade nearly was interrupted early as Price attempted to pick off Ellsbury after his leadoff single. But Ellsbury kept gunning for second base on Price’s attempt and slid safely ahead of first baseman Miguel Cabrera’s late, wide throw. Jeter followed by slashing a double to right for a 1-0 lead.
Martin Prado lined a single to left, Mark Teixeira drove an opposite-field, RBI double to right and then the Yankees went into a station-to-station mode.
Carlos Beltran’s drive to right skipped against the wall for an RBI single, with Teixeira stopping at third – until designated hitter Brian McCann drove him in with a line single to center.
After Chase Headley grounded a single to left that loaded the bases, Brett Gardner tapped a well-place grounder to deep short that went for an RBI infield hit.
And when Cervelli completed the hit string with a groundball RBI single through the left side, Price’s night was finished — but the Yanks weren’t through scoring.
Ellsbury and Jeter delivered sacrifice flies against lefty reliever Blaine Hardy for an 8-0 lead, keeping the Yanks 8-for-8 with runners in scoring position until Prado’s groundout ended the epic frame.
And it was product of a somewhat re-jiggered lineup by manager Joe Girardi, who batted Prado third and kept Ellsbury in the leadoff spot despite Gardner’s return.
Signed to a massive free-agent contract last winter to be the Yanks’ leadoff man, Ellsbury became the club’s primary No. 3 hitter due to injury and ineffectiveness in other areas of the lineup. But with Gardner having been sidelined starting Saturday due to a right ankle injury, Ellsbury had thrived in the leadoff spot — including hitting three homers combined Monday and Tuesday.
“I’ve felt pretty good the last week or so,” Ellsbury said, though he drew no correlation between that and his place in the batting order. “I just hope to keep it going.”
Girardi batted Gardner eighth Wednesday, though it had more to do with Gardner being a career 2-for-20 against Price than anything else.
Girardi mostly has employed a 1-2-3 of Gardner, Jeter and Ellsbury atop his order.
“I’m not saying you won’t see those guys together again,” Girardi said. But when asked if Ellsbury might see more time at leadoff through September, Girardi was noncommittal.
“Let’s just see where we go,” Girardi said. “We’ll worry about today.”