Some players use the All-Star break purely for physical rest. Some use it to mentally recover from a strenuous first half of a 162-game season. Brett Gardner used it to get his swing back.
Entering Sunday night, Gardner — a career .263 hitter — was hitting .257 while playing in 84 of the Yankees’ first 90 games this season. But Gardner, who singled off David Price in the Yankees’ three-run fourth inning and added another single in the sixth Sunday night, is doing all he can to improve that number.
On the Thursday of the All-Star break, Gardner was at Yankee Stadium hitting. It paid dividends Saturday, when he led off the first inning with a line-drive single and hit a solo home run over the right-centerfield wall and into the Yankees’ bullpen in the third.
“I was in a hitter’s count — a 3-1 count — so I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and he threw a fastball and I put a good swing on it,” Gardner said. “It was 1-0 at the time, so it was nice to tie the game back and give CC [Sabathia] a little more hope.”
But the Yankees fell to Boston, 5-2, on Saturday after their offense mustered only five hits. “It was just frustrating offensively we weren’t able to get a whole lot going again tonight,” Gardner said.
The game was a confidence-booster for Gardner, however. He hit his sixth homer of the season and first since May 18.
“It felt good,” he said. “I definitely need to drive the ball a little bit better in a more consistent basis. The first half for me was pretty inconsistent.”
Gardner, who had been batting No. 2 for the majority of the season, was flip-flopped in the lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury the Friday before the All-Star break. Including Sunday night, Gardner has three multi-hit performances since the switch.
When Joe Girardi was asked before Saturday’s game about the lineup swap, he wasn’t sure if the sample size was enough to determine if it’s something that will stick or not.
“I think it’s too early to judge,” Girardi said. “I like both of their at-bats. As I said, I’m not sure it’s going to make much of a difference because their numbers are really similar against righthanders. But I thought I’d try it and see how it worked.”
Gardner and the Yankees had another tough matchup Sunday night against Price. “They got a good pitcher going in Price,” Gardner said. “He’s always tough against us and he’s always a good challenge, but I think we’ll be ready for it and hopefully come out on top.”
Girardi certainly didn’t undersell the importance of closing out the Boston series with a win before continuing with the final seven games of the homestand against the Orioles and Giants.
“It’s got to turn around [Sunday night],’’ Girardi said. “This is probably as important game that we’ve had in July in a long time.”