ST. PETERSBURG -- The longest-tenured Yankee insists that he has not bothered to peel back the layers of his uncertain future. If this is indeed the closing act of Brett Gardner's time in New York, he intends to maintain the same approach that kept him with the organization for more
ST. PETERSBURG -- The longest-tenured Yankee insists that he has not bothered to peel back the layers of his uncertain future. If this is indeed the closing act of Brett Gardner's time in New York, he intends to maintain the same approach that kept him with the organization for more than a decade, leaving every ounce of energy on the field.
Gardner came off the bench to deliver a key run-scoring hit, then preserved the lead with a terrific sixth-inning catch as the Yankees defeated the Rays, 4-1, on Monday evening at Tropicana Field. The loss officially eliminated Tampa Bay from the postseason, ensuring that New York will face the Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3.
"I feel like I've always been pretty good at trying to focus on the present and compartmentalize things," Gardner said. "[The future is] out of my control. That's a long way away for me. I'm just worried about today and tomorrow and this team that we have this season. I feel like we've got a really special group of guys. It's just fun to be a part of."
Andrew McCutchen hit a third-inning homer while Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge contributed run-scoring hits, supporting a 'bullpen day' squad of eight relievers who held the Rays to two hits. Tampa Bay's only run came in the fourth inning off Sonny Gray when Tommy Pham doubled, advanced on a passed ball and scored on a double play.
Jonathan Holder tossed a scoreless inning in his first big league start, Gray recorded six outs and was credited with the win, while Zach Britton worked the ninth for his seventh save (third with the Yankees).
"We feel like our 'pen is really deep with a lot of guys that you would consider high-leverage guys," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We feel like when we're at our best, when we're rested, we can shorten the game on you. There's probably going to be playoff games where you do see a starter go short and we can roll out our guys one inning apiece. That's definitely one of the formulas for us to be successful."
Though a stacked outfield has prompted Gardner's playing time to dwindle in recent weeks, suggesting that the Yankees may decline to pick up his $12.5 million option for 2019, the 35-year-old Gardner has focused on being prepared when his number is called.
"Just a pro," Boone said. "Since we've gotten healthy, it has cut into some of his playing time, but there is no doubt in my mind he's going to play a big role for us down the stretch and hopefully into the playoffs. He came up huge tonight for us."
Gardner entered the game after Aaron Hicks aggravated a tight left hamstring running out a third-inning grounder, then gave the Yanks the lead by lashing a run-scoring hit in the fifth off Ryan Yarbrough. In the sixth, Gardner slammed into the center-field wall making a catch to rob Brandon Lowe of extra bases.
"He hit it well," Gardner said. "I turned around and knew immediately that I had to get back to the wall as quick as I could. Guys on base and full count, [Tommy Pham] was running. Even if he wasn't running, he was going to score from first. It would've been a tie game. I was just trying to get back there and make a play."
From the mound, Player Page for David Robertson raised his fists in exaltation, then momentarily showed concern while Gardner slowly rose to his feet.
"Thank goodness Gardy was out there," Robertson said. "That was an unbelievable play. Banged his head against the fence out there pretty hard too. I think it was the game-saving play. That's the way he's always played. He plays hard. He gives it everything he's got out there."
Dellin Betances worked a perfect eighth inning, but he recorded no strikeouts, snapping a streak of 44 consecutive appearances (since May 29) with at least one whiff. It is the longest streak in AL history and the third-longest in the Majors, behind Albertin Chapman (49) and Corey Knebel (46).
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McCutchen was particularly impressed by the skill level of Gardner's play, which included finding the softer chain-link portion of the fence to land against.
"Being in a dome and not being able to see the ball as you would because of the roof and the warning track," McCutchen said. "The warning track is a different color. It's all turf, so you don't have the dirt to tell you that the wall is coming up. That was just a major play. A major part of the game. Saved two runs for us. That was huge."
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"I don't think it's fair for them to call it a 'bullpen day.' More like a 'closer day.' They all just kind of come in there and have wipeout stuff from the second that [Chad] Green steps on the mound and from then on out [their pitchers] are very special." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash
Right-hander Luis Severino (18-8, 3.38 ERA) draws the start on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET as the Yankees continue their four-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field. Severino is coming off a sharp effort against the Red Sox in which he allowed a run over seven innings, picking up his first win since Aug. 26. Severino is 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA in three starts vs. Tampa Bay this year. Jake Faria (4-3, 5.17) will start for the Rays.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.