Eventually their bats were required, and their left-handed swings kept the New York Yankees very much alive in their playoff chase.
Ellsbury and Gregorius homered on consecutive pitches with one in the seventh inning, lifting the Yankees to a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.
Ellsbury did not start because manager Joe Girardi wanted to give him a day off against a left-handed starter after he played 11 days in a row. Girardi said he told Ellsbury on Friday that he would have Tuesday off, but when Aaron Judge injured his right oblique on a swing in the fourth inning Tuesday, the center fielder was needed.
Gregorius did not start for the second straight game because of recent soreness, specifically a right rib ailment that might have contributed to a 3-for-34 slump in his past nine games. However, once it was apparent the Yankees needed some more offense, Gregorius was told to get ready to possibly hit for Ronald Torreyes in the sixth or seventh inning.
Ellsbury capped a nine-pitch at-bat by lifting a full-count curveball from right-hander Ross Stripling into the second deck for a 1-0 lead in the seventh. It was his ninth home run and fifth in his past 22 games after he had one in the previous 58 games.
"I'm not surprised," Girardi said. "I thought Jacoby put on a really good at-bat on Stripling. He kept fouling pitches off and got a curveball up.
Moments after Ellsbury crossed the plate and while he was still accepting handshakes in the dugout from teammates, Gregorius drove a first-pitch fastball into the right-center-field seats. It was the shortstop's 18th home run and first career pinch-hit home run.
"He was throwing cutters and fastballs, so I decided to be aggressive," Gregorius said.
"Huge, late in the game to come off the bench and put up great at-bats, we needed it," Yankees catcher Brian McCann said.
New York remained two games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second American League wild-card spot and is four behind the AL East-leading Red Sox. The Yankees visit Boston for a four-game series beginning Thursday.
CC Sabathia put the Yankees in position to win late by allowing three hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. He struck out seven, walked one and threw 93 pitches before getting a loud ovation.
Betances, pitching for the first time since Friday, quickly recorded the final out of the eighth and tossed a scoreless ninth for his 11th save.
Los Angeles rookie left-hander Julio Urias allowed four hits in 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Before the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Urias was heading to the bullpen as part of a plan to limit his innings.
"I'm very happy, and that's up to the team whether it's my last outing whether they want to give me some rest or they want to take me out of the bullpen," Urias said through an interpreter. "That's up to the coaches and to the team, and I'll be happy with whatever decision they take."
Urias' 14th start ended when he loaded the bases by walking Judge on a full count. Earlier in the plate appearance, Judge grimaced on a foul ball but stayed in the game before getting pulled when the Yankees noticed he was not running well.
The Dodgers (81-63) lost for the third time in 10 games and were shut out for the 10th time as they continued struggling against left-handed pitching.
"I don't think we fared too well (against Sabathia)," Roberts said. "I think that we had a good plan in place and he made pitches. As we finish out the next 18 games, we're going to see some left-handed pitching and rightfully so. So there's got to be some point where we break through."
NOTES: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said RF Aaron Judge will probably be out "a while" and Rob Refsnyder will be the everyday right fielder. Girardi also added he will discuss with GM Brian Cashman about bringing up another outfielder from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. .... Los Angeles RHP Brett Anderson (blister on left index finger) will start Game 3 for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League championship series against El Paso. ... RHP Brandon McCarthy (right hip stiffness) and LHP Alex Wood (elbow impingement) will throw in simulated games this weekend when the Dodgers are in Arizona.