The center fielder homered off southpaw Aaron Loup -- the first career long ball he has surrendered to a left-handed batter -- during a five-run seventh inning to propel the Yankees to a 6-3 series-opening victory over the division-rival Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
"First of all, you have to have power and the ability to hit left-handers," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury. "Loup is very tough on left-handers, and we have seen that over the last couple years. For him to hit that homer ... that was, obviously, really big."
Now the Yankees are hoping an injured ankle doesn't sideline Ellsbury for an extended period of time.
Ellsbury, who is batting .317/.360/.525 in August after hitting a homer and a triple in New York's victory, jammed his ankle in the top half of the ninth on a play at the plate and gingerly walked off the field after he was ruled safe. The play was eventually overturned on Toronto's challenge, but the run didn't matter, as closer David Robertson -- who entered with two outs in the eighth -- retired all four Blue Jays he faced to earn his 35th save of the season.
With a 2-for-5 effort against Toronto, Ellsbury recorded his team-leading 43rd multihit game. His 16 RBIs and nine stolen bases in August are the most he has in any month, while the five homers he has hit match a monthly high this season.
The speedy outfielder has been a major spark plug for the Yankees, who improved to 23-16 since the All-Star break.
"His ankle is sore," Girardi said. "He hurt his ankle. I'm not sure what he's going to be for us [Saturday]. I can't tell you that he's going to play. It's frustrating because he's playing so well. We'll have to wait and see."
The Yankees' bats were silenced by Toronto starter Mark Buehrle for much of the contest before a late-game eruption quieted the crowd of 43,318. The Yanks, who entered Friday's contest three games back for the second American League Wild Card, kept pace with the Tigers and Mariners.
With two on and none out in the seventh, Brett Gardner brought home Brian McCann with a double that one-hopped the wall in right, and a throwing error by second baseman Steve Tolleson on the play allowed Carlos Beltran to score, giving New York a 2-1 lead.
Another throwing error later in the frame on a pickoff attempt by Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro allowed Gardner to score and make it a 3-1 game.
Ellsbury then delivered the final blow of the inning once Buehrle exited the contest. The 30-year-old turned on a 1-1 offering from Loup and deposited it over the fence in right field to put the Yankees ahead, 5-1. The two-run homer was Ellsbury's 14th home run of the season and fourth in his last five games. Loup had gone 232 at-bats vs. a left-hander without allowing a homer.
Buehrle was charged with four runs on seven hits over his six-plus innings of work. The lefty, who walked one and struck out four, has won just once in his last 15 starts after beginning the year with a 10-1 record.
The veteran has also lost 11 consecutive decisions to the Yankees and has a career 1-13 record against them.
Derek Jeter, who went 1-for-5 and is playing his final series in Toronto, was surprised to hear how poorly Buehrle has done vs. New York.
"It's not like we're all running to the bat racks because Buehrle is pitching," the shortstop said. "He's got great stuff and he's a competitor. I'm sure he wants the ball when we face him. I think that's just a fluke thing."
Yankees starter Chris Capuano, meanwhile, allowed three runs (two earned) over 6 1/3 innings to collect his first win in seven starts with New York. The left-hander's lone hiccup through the first six innings came with one out in the fourth.
Toronto slugger Jose Bautista crushed a 1-2 pitch into the second deck in left field for his 27th homer of the season to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. It was the third consecutive game Bautista has gone deep, marking the first time he has accomplished the feat since July 1-3, 2011.
Capuano, who snapped a 12-start winless streak, continued to cruise after that until Toronto rallied in the seventh, putting two runs across the board before right-hander Adam Warren retired Edwin Encarnacion with runners on first and second to end the threat.
"I couldn't be prouder to get a win as a Yankee," Capuano said. "It feels really good."
Chase Headley homered in the ninth -- his third with the Yankees and 10th overall this season -- to put New York up, 6-3, and drop Toronto to 7-17 in August.
"We're better hitters than we've been producing as a whole right now, no question about that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Just have to keep battling every day. I don't have any other answer for you, nobody does. Just keep grinding away. What else are you going to do?"
The Yankees won for the seventh time in their last nine games and improved to 3-2 on their seven-game road trip.