Where would the Yankees be without Brett Gardner? As discussed in an earlier post by Bernadette, Gardner is the player the Yankees were expecting when they threw all that money at Jacoby Ellsbury.
Gardner is doing what Ellsbury should be doing this year. The Yankees homegrown left fielder is having a career year with the bat: a batting average higher than his career mark, a home-run total double what it was last year (15 this year vs. 8 last year) and an RBI total equal to last year's (52) with 40 games remaining in the season.
The only real complaint is that, for all his speed, Brett Gardner is not much of a base stealer. His career SB % is around 80%. He waits and waits and waits and usually stays right there at his base. It’s frustrating at times but given how well he is playing compared to his teammates, it’s a trade-off fans will have to accept.
Like many Yankees players, Gardner has been slumping recently, batting only .200 over the past 10 games, but there is no player, aside from Derek Jeter, that I would have wanted at the plate yesterday in the fifth inning with 2 runners in scoring position.
Not that he was guaranteed to come up with a hit but I trusted him to have a good at bat and that’s exactly what he did, seeing five pitches and finally getting a single off one of Jeremy Hellickson’s devastating change-ups.
Contrast that with Friday night’s game when the Yankees had the bases loaded with one out and their number three and four hitters coming up. At the time the Yankees were down 4-0 and, with a single or double, they would have been right back in the game and facing Rays closer Joel Peralta, against whom they have had success in the past.
Instead Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira both struck out, Ellsbury on three pitches, leaving the bases loaded and ending the Yankees best scoring threat. One of them, Ellsbury or Teixeira, has to make contact there. They have to. But they didn’t. On Sunday, Gardner did.
Yes, Gardner strikes out a lot, his strikeout totals lead the team by quite a bit (110 vs. Ellsbury in 2nd place with 80) but part of that is his ability to work long counts. In Sunday’s game, he saw 13 of Hellickson’s 99 pitches, over 10%. From a leadoff hitter, it’s hard to ask for more.
The Yankees are still in the race for a playoff spot for a lot of little reasons, including luck, but it would be a mistake to overlook Brett Gardner as one of them.