It’s been a bit under the radar but Brett Gardner has been Mr. Clutch for the Yankees.
There was the home run off Hector Rendon at Wrigley Field on May 5 with two outs in the ninth which turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
There was the tying home run off Matt Bush on June 23 in the bottom of the ninth, a game the Yankees would win in extras.
And there was Thursday night, when Gardner led of the 11th with a walk-off homer off Andrew Kittredge.
“I’m just happy that I was able to come through in a big spot like that,”
Gardner said after the game.
Joe Girardi said that his leadoff hitter has done an “outstanding” job this season. He recalled what message he had for Gardner in spring training.
“Your job is to score 100 runs,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Gardner already has 66. He also has 18 home runs, which is his new career-high despite the Yankees not even being at the end of July, and despite the fact that he didn’t hit his first until April 29. The Yankees are 15-0 in games where Gardner goes yard.
Home runs are up around baseball and Gardner is taking advantage. “In today’s game it’s becoming harder to predict how many home runs guys are going to hit because it seems like everyone is hitting the ball out of the ballpark,” Girardi said.
Gardner helped get the game to extra innings. Trailing 5-4 in the ninth, he led off with a triple into the gap in left-center. “It’s been a little while since I had a triple, so I was struggling coming around second base,” Gardner said.
With two outs and Gardner still on third, Gary Sanchez found a hole in the shift as miscommunication in the Rays infield allowed Sanchez’s grounder to go into the outfield and score Gardner with the tying run.
In his next at-bat, Gardner decided not to leave it up to his teammates to bring him in.
His positive influence has been felt in the clubhouse with his veteran presence and sense of humor. “He is an energetic guy that stirs the pot, that keeps the guys loose,” Girardi said. “He’s a leader, plays hard every day.
There’s just so many different things. To me, Gardy is, by nature, a fighter. And you want fighters on your team. You want guys that have to overcome things to be successful and I think Gardy always has.”
Instead of the night being about C.C. Sabathia being removed in the fifth inning or Tyler Wade’s struggles in the clutch, the night belonged to Gardner, who is the new Mr. Clutch.