Brett Gardner was in an odd-looking spot going into this past weekend. The leadoff hitter on baseball’s most-productive offense, he was batting a meager .188 and didn’t have a home run or an RBI. This was a massive slump.
Manager Joe Girardi wanted to give Gardner a little more time before possibly dropping him in the batting order and that patience has paid off. The longest-tenured Yankee has finally gotten into the act.
The leftfielder extended a hitting tear in Tuesday night’s 11-5 victory over Toronto at the Stadium with a 3-for-5 performance that included two home runs, three runs scored and three RBIs. It was his second two-homer game in four days. Over that span, he is batting .389 with four home runs and seven RBIs and has raised his average to .232.
“We felt he was going to come out of it,” Girardi said. “A month sometimes is too early to react. We had some guys coming back — and then you’d start considering how you put your lineup together — but we still considered him our leadoff guy.”
Gardner said: “It’s just a matter of getting results. Baseball is one of those games where sometimes you can feel pretty lost and sometime you feel like the game is going in slow motion. It’s on us to channel that and make it last . . . But when you’re not getting hits, not getting results, it can be difficult.”
Gardner doubled and scored the first Yankees run in the first inning. He capped a four-run second with a two-run homer to left that made the score 5-0. And he started the fourth with a solo homer to left for a 7-0 lead.
For good measure, he made a leaping catch at the wall in the ninth inning to rob Kevin Pillar of an extra-base hit.
“I wouldn’t say [Gardner was] struggling, I’d say he was about ready to break out and that’s what he’s doing now,” said rightfielder Aaron Judge, who also hit two homers. “He’s having quality at-bats, he’s staying aggressive and he’s making things happen at the top of the lineup. That’s what you love to see from your leadoff guy.”
Gardner opened the season well enough before he was involved in an awkward collision with Rays first baseman Rickie Weeks Jr. on April 12. He missed only one game, but his performance began to drop off precipitously. A batting average that had been as high as .350 bottomed out at .182 just 11 days later.
“He started off really hot and then he had that collision and I don’t know how much it affected him,” Girardi said. “He went through a cold spell, but he’s now really impacting the ball.
“I think it’s really big for us because he has the ability to do more than just get on base. He has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, to hit doubles, to steal bases . . . It’s really good to see him going again.”