He came into the game hitting .198 with only three doubles and a single home run over the first 32 games of the season. But in a game with the AL East lead on the line, Brett Gardner finally broke out.
Gardner led the game off with a double off Rick Porcello to right center field that almost cleared the fence for a leadoff homer. He would rope another double in his next at-bat, this time splitting the gap in left center. Mitch Moreland robbed him off his third extra-base hit on the night with a nice play in the fourth.
But it was Gardner's third extra-base hit of the night that meant the most.
He came to the plate with runners on first and third with one out, and more importantly, the Yankees down 6-5 in the eighth. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel was on the mound, looking for the five-out save for the first time in his career. All Gardner needed to do was find the outfield, or beat out a double play all.
Instead, he decided to rope a 3-2 fastball to left center for a two-run triple that started a four-run rally for the Yankees to keep their win streak alive. It was a much-needed big night for the veteran outfielder, who modestly gave credit to his teammates after the game when asked about his clutch hit late in the game.
"It starts with the guys before me," Gardner told YES Network's Meredith Marakovits after the game. "Neil Walker leading off with a double, Miguel Andujar having a great team at-bat hitting a groundball to the right side getting him over to third base. Then Gleyber (Torres) obviously drawing the walk. So, I came up in a good spot and I was fortunate to get ahead 3-0 and he fell behind. I got the fastballs and drove one to left center."
The Yankees have been hitting on all cylinders during their torrid run, and their leadoff man in Gardner hasn't been his normal, consistent self. But manager Aaron Boone hasn't looked at his stat sheet that way. Instead, looking back at his previous games, Boone sees some bad luck in Gardner's at-bats.
"Before the game we talked about him. I feel like he's been a little bit unlucky," Boone said in his postgame presser. "Some of the things we're seeing that suggests that better days are ahead and today he was able to really get into some good counts and put some aggressive swings in the strike zone and drive some balls today. That last one obviously - he really stepped on that one the other way."
Gardner said last night he was "just finding holes," something that has been plaguing him early on. Though his average may not be where he wants it and production has been slow to catch on after a stellar 2017 season, Gardner is still respected as one of the veteran leaders in the clubhouse.
Boone recognizes that, which is why he isn't worried about him in any sense.
"He sets the tone for us, just his approach, the way he leads guys," Boone said. "The at-bats he has even when he's not rolling. He still has that ability to get on base and there's just a toughness that he plays the game with. Tonight I was happy to see him break through because obviously it was very impactful. I guess maybe he needed it but he's so tough-minded that he just continues to grind away regardless."
Now, thanks in part to Gardner, the Yankees have the AL East lead and will look to further their position by playing lights out baseball as they have been for weeks now.
"It's been a fun couple of weeks for us and hopefully we can keep it rolling," Gardner said about the streak. "We've been playing good baseball, and when you're playing well, it's a lot of fun."
Gardner seeing results in good at-bats going forward will make it even more fun.