NEW YORK -- As the Yankees' longest-tenured player, Brett Gardner has the luxury of calling upon experiences that predate the current Yankee Stadium, a rarity in the clubhouse these days. One of those memories crossed the outfielder's mind after Wednesday's 9-6 victory over the Red Sox, his finest performance of
NEW YORK -- As the Yankees' longest-tenured player, Brett Gardner has the luxury of calling upon experiences that predate the current Yankee Stadium, a rarity in the clubhouse these days. One of those memories crossed the outfielder's mind after Wednesday's 9-6 victory over the Red Sox, his finest performance of the season to date.
"I remember my rookie year, standing next to [Alex Rodriguez] and hearing him do an interview," Gardner said. "This is at the old stadium, in '08. I think he struck out four times that night, and I remember him saying, 'That's one good thing about baseball; we get a chance to come back here and redeem ourselves tomorrow.' I never forgot that."
That decade-old cliche bubbled to the surface as Gardner discussed an evening in which he delivered three extra-base hits, including a go-ahead two-run triple off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees have been rolling, winning 17 of 18 games to secure baseball's best record at 26-10, but Gardner had almost seemed like he was on the outside looking in.
"I feel like he's been a little bit unlucky," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Some of the things we're seeing suggest that better days are ahead. Today he was able to really get in some good counts and put some aggressive swings in the strike zone and drive some balls today. Gardy sets the tone for us, just with his approach, the way he leads guys."
Hours before first pitch, Boone had expressed confidence in Gardner's ability as the leadoff hitter, stating that he saw no reason to tinker with his lineup. Boone pointed to some of the data circulating internally via the team's analytics department, mentioning exit velocity and walk rates in particular. Gardner said that he was aware of the stats Boone mentioned.
"Anytime you look up at the board and you're hitting .200, maybe you see some numbers that suggest that you should be hitting a little bit better," Gardner said. "It's kind of a good feeling. Up there at the plate, I haven't felt completely lost. I've been feeling good physically. I've been seeing the ball well. My work has been pretty good in the cage and in batting practice, just the results haven't been there in the game."
Boone added that Gardner's tough luck could be corrected if he was able to drive the ball in the air or on a line more frequently. Gardner accomplished that in the first inning, greeting Rick Porcello with a double and scoring the first run of the game on Aaron Judge's single.
"He's the ignitor," Judge said. "He gets us going, especially at the top of the lineup. First inning, coming up, leadoff double. That's huge, especially the last time we faced Porcello I think we got no-hit until the seventh inning. Having him go up there right away attacking him and getting on base is huge for our team. It's like, 'Hey, let's go. It's time to go.'"
Gardner doubled again off Porcello in the third, scoring on Giancarlo Stanton's two-run double, and was denied an extra-base hit in the fourth by Mitch Moreland's diving stab at first base. The biggest knock came in the eighth, as Gardner worked a seven-pitch at-bat and sent the Boston outfielders racing back to retrieve his well-struck drive off Kimbrel.
"Hopefully tonight was the start of something good, me turning the corner," Gardner said. "We've been winning. That's all that matters."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.