The Yankees returned home with a 4-2 win over the Royals on Monday night. Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius both homered off southpaw Jason Vargas.
After not driving in a single run in his first 18 games, Gardner has now homered nine times in his last 21 games. This is the same player who homered seven times in 148 games last season, but the left fielder isn’t doing anything special. “Just been consistent at the plate, man,” Gardner said. “Just been using my legs, been down on my legs and pretty good approach, my timing’s been really good and my balance has been good and just hitting the ball well. That’s baseball and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Gardner did hit 17 home runs in 2014 and 16 more the following year, but the last three weeks have been Brady Anderson-like for the leadoff hitter. He is batting .354 with 19 RBI and 22 runs scored over his last 21 games. But again, Gardner isn’t trying to do anything special. “Just looking for a pitch to hit,” Gardner said on his approach at the plate. “Trying to hit a ball hard, and trying to get on base. I mean, that’s my job at the top of the order is get on base as much as possible, score runs and we’ve got some big bats in the middle of our lineup, and all up and down our lineup, that are capable of driving me in, so just have good at-bats, hit the ball hard, and get on base.”
Against the soft throwing Vargas, the lefties were able to stay in the box and knew to look for pitches on the corners. “You just gotta keep your front shoulder closed, and stay in there against him, and fortunately he gave me a pitch to hit with two strikes and I didn’t miss it,” Gardner said.
Didi Gregorius’s two-out, two-run homer in the fourth gave the Yankees the lead. The Yankee shortstop is batting .385 off lefties this season, and has hit .333 with five home runs off lefties since the start of the 2016 season. It’s a far cry from the batter who hit one home run off a lefty over the first four years of his career.
Joe Girardi mentioned that when he would sit Gregorius it was usually against a lefty, although he wasn’t platooning him. The shortstop felt the extra reps were one reason for his success against lefties. “And trying to stick to a plan whenever you go up there and try to stay consistent with that,” Gregorius said.
He missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury he suffered in the World Baseball Classic, but he’s returned and played well, contributing to the Yankees first place start.
While Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday would seemingly be the power hitters, teams have to contend with a deep lineup. “Everybody can do damage from top to bottom,” Gregorius said.
Batting ninth, Chris Carter hit a home run in Monday’s victory. And as the weather gets consistently warmer, which has to happen sooner or later, opposing pitchers will have a lot to contend with. Especially if Gardner and Gregorius are hitting home runs.