The Yankees looked poised for another brutal loss on Wednesday thanks to familiar foils in their own ranks, but Brett Gardner—with the help of others—spared New York from another defeat.
The Bombers’ 4-3 win over the lowly Orioles started to get wacky when Gleyber Torres committed another defensive blunder. Torres knocked down a hard-hit liner in the bottom of the eighth. He had ample time to start a double play, but he instead threw the ball to first base. Chad Green allowed a home run, his third in his last three appearances, shortly thereafter. That left New York trailing by one.
But Baltimore’s Tyler Wells began the ninth with a walk to Luke Voit, who was replaced by pinch-runner Tyler Wade. Torres singled and Gary Sánchez flied out, bringing Gardner to the plate.
The Yankees pulled off a gutsy double-steal in the middle of what became a seven-pitch at-bat, with Wade beating the throw to third. The twin swipe was especially daring, as Wells is quick to the plate and strong-armed O’s catcher Austin Wynns had a clear throwing lane with the left-handed Gardner up. But the decision paid off, forcing Baltimore to bring the infield in. After fouling off three straight pitches, Gardner managed to dunk one in for a two-run, 66.4-mph, game-winning, bloop single.
“That’s a situation you want to be in,” Gardner said. “You wanna be up there with the game on the line. I feel like I’ve been having pretty good at-bats recently and seeing the ball well. He got ahead of me pretty quick, I think 1-2, fouled off some tough pitches and was able to float that changeup he threw me out there into no man’s land, thank goodness.”
Gardner’s third and final hit of the game brought his average to .227. That’s hardly an impressive figure, but the number is weighed down by a disastrous first half.
The longest-tenured Yankee hit just .194 over the first 75 games of the season, leaving many to wonder just how much the 38-year-old had left in the tank. But Gardner has been a .271 hitter in the 49 games since the All-Star break while getting on base at a .370 clip. He’s put up a 123 wRC+ in the second half after tallying a mark of 75 in the season’s opening months.
Gardner has been even better over his last 20 games, slashing .305/.379/.525 with eight runs scored, three homers, six extra-base hits and 10 RBI. That includes Wednesday’s heroics.
The outfielder’s resurgence has been a blessing for the Yankees, who are tied with Toronto atop the wild card race and mere percentage points ahead of Boston following the win over Baltimore.
“He’s a different guy at the plate now in the second half of the season,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s been a much, much better offensive player in a much better place in the box.
“You know he’s gonna make a pitcher throw strikes, especially in the tightest moments of games when there’s a little bit of tension out there.”
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