Injuries have forced the Yankees’ hand with Brett Gardner. Illness led to a throwback appearance for the 37-year-old outfielder in his 14th season atop the batting order.
And Tuesday night, in a feel-good 6-4 victory over the Phillies, it actually paid off.
With two outs in the fifth, Gardner gave the Yankees the lead for good. He turned on a first-pitch Aaron Nola fastball up and in, the ball narrowly escaping the glove of a leaping Bryce Harper in the short right-field porch. According to BaseballSavant.com, it had an expected batting average of .050. In other words, it was a Stadium Special.
Gardner and the Yankees will gladly take it. It was his first homer in July and just his fourth this season. It was just his second extra-base hit this month and snapped a 4-for-34 skid. It provided the impetus for a strong offensive performance from this lineup of backups to the backups as the Yankees won for the third time in four games coming out of the All-Star break despite a number of significant absences of key players.
Clearly on his last legs, Gardner wasn’t supposed to be an everyday player this season. His intended role was as an extra outfielder. But injury upon injury to a variety of outfielders has given the Yankees no other choice. Gardner has had to play.
The results have not been what the Yankees desired. He’s having the worst season of his career through 79 games and 204 at-bats, slashing an ugly .191/.307/.296 with a dismal .613 OPS.
But Gardner can still give a representative at-bat. It is why he was plugged into the top spot in the order on Tuesday when LeMahieu was scratched. In the fifth inning, he showed there is still a little bit of life left in that bat of his.