And losing pitcher David Robertson walked slowly to the dugout after the New York Yankees missed a chance to keep sole possession of first place in the AL East, losing to Boston 4-3 on Tuesday night.
"That was a great feeling," said Ellsbury, who had four hits on his 29th birthday. "The fans were great tonight. They were into the game, energetic and we just want to keep putting on a show for them."
His hit provided a rare moment of celebration for the Red Sox, losers of 11 of 13 games and consigned to the role of trying to ruin the playoff chances of other teams in the division. On Tuesday they did it against their traditional rivals.
"With the Yankees in town, they're battling for a (playoff) spot and at this point we can just go out and try to play spoiler," left fielder Cody Ross said. "We don't care who we play. We just want to win."
The loss left the Yankees and Orioles tied with 79-62 records. Baltimore beat Tampa Bay 9-2 on Tuesday night. The Rays are two back in the division.
"You wouldn't be tied for first unless you found ways to win games throughout the course of 140-something games that we've played," Derek Jeter said. "So we've got to do it again."
But he knows the Red Sox would like to win the remaining two games of the series even if they are in last place.
"When you compete and you want to win, I don't care where you are in the standings," he said. "Especially when it's Red Sox-Yankees, guys want to play well."
Ciriaco has done that against the Yankees. He went 2 for 3 on Tuesday and is 17 for 35 in nine games in his career against New York, all with Boston this season.
"He was struggling a little bit, I heard, coming in, too," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He hits a ball at his shoetops to lead off the ninth. I mean, he just finds a way against us."
That hit with one out found the hole and went into left field. Mike Aviles then singled between shortstop and third base. Jeter fielded the ball but held it as he had no chance to get either Ciriaco or Aviles. Then Ellsbury lined his decisive single to right field. Ichiro Suzuki fired the ball home, but Ciriaco slid in ahead of the tag by Russell Martin.
"Ciri and Mike did a good job of getting in scoring position," Ellsbury said. "I knew if I hit something to the outfield, Ciri's going to score with his speed."
Andrew Bailey (1-0) got the win after allowing one hit in one inning.
"Today was probably some of the most fun we've had in a while," he said.
Robertson (1-7) retired his first four batters before Boston rallied. Ellsbury's hit came on a changeup that stayed up.
"I was hoping to get the ball down and maybe get him to roll it over, maybe into a double-play ball," Robertson said. "When you make a bad pitch, things can happen."
The Red Sox wasted a chance in the seventh when they loaded the bases with one out and couldn't score. But they got outstanding work from their bullpen, which allowed just a hit and a walk with four strikeouts in 3 2-3 innings.
Dustin Pedroia tied the game for Boston in the sixth with a solo shot, his 15th of the year and third hit of the game.
Boston starter Jon Lester walked three -- of his career-high seven -- in the first when the Yankees took a 1-0 lead. Jeter led off with a walk, took third on a double by Nick Swisher and scored on a groundout by Robinson Cano.
Lester walked the first two batters in the third and the leadoff hitter in the fourth but retired the next three batters in each inning. Then he struck out the side in the fifth, giving him 1,045 career strikeouts, the most by a Red Sox lefty. Bruce Hurst had the old mark of 1,044.
The Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the third on a double by Ciriaco and RBI singles by Ellsbury and Pedroia.
NOTES: Lester's previous career high was five walks on nine different occasions, most recently on July 22 in a 15-7 loss to Toronto in which he allowed 11 runs. ... Carl Yastrzemski is the only other Red Sox player since 1918 with four hits on his birthday. He did it in 1961 and 1976. ... Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte is scheduled to throw in a simulated game Wednesday. He's trying to work his way back into the rotation after breaking his ankle June 28. Pettitte hopes to throw about 60 pitches. ... Injured 1B Mark Teixeira also was with the club even though he is sidelined for up to two weeks with a strained left calf, an injury he aggravated Saturday. "I think we can get plenty of work done here," Teixeira said. ... Swisher snapped an 0-for-28 slump with his double in the first. ... David Phelps (3-4) pitches for the Yankees against Aaron Cook (3-9) in the second game of the three-game series on Wednesday night. ... Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda issued no walks and has just 14 in his last 15 starts.