In one spectacular moment in the sixth inning Monday night, Brett Gardner showed why the Yankees weren't moving him out of centerfield.
Gardner, who had slammed into the right-centerfield wall while not quite getting to David Wright's triple earlier in the game, made the defensive play of the night in the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Mets at Citi Field.
"The best catch I've ever been on the mound for, by far,'' Phil Hughes said. "That was unbelievable.''
With the Yankees leading 1-0, Jonathon Niese on first and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Daniel Murphy drove Hughes' 2-and-1 changeup to deep left-center. As Gardner drifted back to the wall, the portion of the crowd rooting for the Mets rose in anticipation, thinking it was a go-ahead two-run homer.
"I'm thinking it's a 1-0 ballgame and I better catch this,'' Gardner said. He perfectly timed his jump in front of the 385-foot sign, and as his right hand reached over the wall, the ball settled in his glove.
The Yankees' dugout erupted -- as did Hughes in his own understated way -- at the sight of Gardner coming down, ball in glove, for the third out.
"It was a great play,'' David Wright said. "When Murphy hit it, I knew he hit it well, and the way that Brett was tracking it, you could tell it was going to be close. It was an incredible play and kind of took the air out of us for a second. I was on deck, getting ready to walk up to the plate, and I was a little shell-shocked. Just a tremendous play. For sure, a big momentum shift to their favor.''
"Pretty special,'' Joe Girardi said. "It looked for a while like Gardy was going to be the star of the game.''
That's because Gardner had played a key role in the Yankees' 1-0 lead to that point.
Gardner led off the top of the sixth with his fourth triple of the season, a looping fly down the leftfield line that a lunging Lucas Duda couldn't quite reach. Jayson Nix's single to right gave Hughes a 1-0 lead.
Gardner nearly hurt himself in the first, a play he was kicking himself about afterward even though it led to no damage.
With two outs, Wright sent a towering drive to right-center and a sprinting Gardner gave chase. He glanced away from the flight of the ball for a moment to check his unfamiliar surroundings, perhaps enough to throw him off. As the ball landed and ricocheted away, Gardner smashed into the wall, leading with what appeared to be his face. But he was fine, just like his fielding, which many consider Gold Glove-caliber.
"It just kept going,'' he said. "I thought I had a bead on it and it kept going. I kind of turned it back on and was going after it. I thought I was going to get to it and I just ran out of space.''
In Gardner's mind, it was a ball he should have had. "The ball in the first inning I felt I should have caught, and I was able to make a good play on the other one,'' he said. "I felt like I got him back for kind of messing up earlier in the game.''