Brett Gardner, among the few consistent offensive performers for the Yankees this season, was a late scratch from Wednesday night’s game against the A’s because of what the club called “a stiff neck.”

After the Yankees 5-2 loss to the A’s, Gardner said his neck had been sore since he took a backward tumble into the stands at Rogers Centre last Thursday making a catch on a Ryan Goins foul ball but expects to be back in the lineup Thursday.

“I feel lot better now than I did earlier in the day,” Gardner said.

Before the game Girardi speculated Gardner might have aggravated the neck during Tuesday’s game against the A’s, either in the third inning when he dove into second base on a double, or maybe later in the sixth when he hit the ground unsuccessfully trying to chase down a Danny Valencia triple, but the leftfielder said that wasn’t the case. “I think it’s just carryover from Toronto when I hit my head,” Gardner said. “Maybe a little whiplash.”

The 32-year-old Gardner entered yesterday with a .308/.438/.436 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) with one homer and two RBI.

Chasing some hits

Chase Headley, in the second year of a four-year, $52-million deal, is off to a rough start and was slotted ninth in the batting order for the second time this season Wednesday night.

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Although he went 2-for-4 Tuesday, Headley came into Wednesday with a .200/.342/.200 slash line, with zero homers and two RBIs. He has drawn seven walks, third-most on the team. “I haven’t had a problem with his at-bats,” Girardi said. “I know he doesn’t have a lot of hits, but he’s got an on-base percentage over .300, he’s taking his walks, he’s been patient. He’s just not getting a lot of hits, but that will change.”

Hicks subs in against lefty

With the A’s starting former Yankee lefthander Rich Hill, either Ellsbury or Gardner likely will be on the bench in favor of the righthanded-hitting Hicks. So far Gardner has sat twice against lefty starters and Ellsbury once, most recently Tuesday night. Girardi said he had not yet made a decision for Thursday, though Gardner’s stiff neck could make his call easier.

Slow on basepads

Girardi had a ready answer for an out-of-town reporter who asked generally about the Yankees’ base running and, specifically, why they don’t seem to go first-to-third that often.

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“I wouldn’t say that we have world track athletes that are paid to run 100-meter sprints in the middle of our order,” Girardi said, a reference to plodding veterans like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann. “They’re doing the best they can.”