NEW YORK -- A night after Carsten Sabathia called Brett Gardner the "heart and soul" of the Yankees for his walk-off heroics in the 11th inning, the 33-year-old outfielder sparked the Yanks to a 6-1 win over the Rays on Friday, making history in the process.Gardner ripped a 2-0 fastball
NEW YORK -- A night after Carsten Sabathia called Brett Gardner the "heart and soul" of the Yankees for his walk-off heroics in the 11th inning, the 33-year-old outfielder sparked the Yanks to a 6-1 win over the Rays on Friday, making history in the process.
Gardner ripped a 2-0 fastball from Rays starter Austin Pruitt over the right-center-field wall to lead off the home half of the first inning, which came less than 24 hours after he ended Thursday night's contest with a homer.
Only two other Yankees have ever ended a game with a home run and then led off the following game with another homer. Roberto Kelly did it in 1990, and Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon did it in 1940.
"I didn't know that," Gardner said. "Any time you come through in a big situation like last night, it's just a big boost. I thought today, it was important to give [starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka] a lead."
Gardner's homer on Friday was scorched off the bat with an exit velocity of 104 mph, according to Statcast™, and it traveled 398 feet. The walk-off shot went 392 feet and had an exit velocity of 105 mph.
Gardner also ripped a leadoff triple in the ninth inning of Thursday's game and, with two outs, scored the game-tying run on Gary Sanchez's single.
The Yankees outfielder now has a 10-game hitting streak, with four homers in that span. He went 1-for-2 with a walk on Friday before he was hit by an 0-2, 90-mph fastball from Adam Kolarek near the back of his neck in the eighth inning. He remained in the game and is expected to be OK moving forward.
Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.