Brett Gardner isn’t just going to fade away. With the addition of Edwin Encarnación on Monday and Giancarlo Stanton expected on Tuesday — not to mention Aaron Judge arriving within the next 11 days — the veteran outfielder reminded everyone that he and the rest of these underdog Yankees played their way into first place.
Gardner drove in four runs, as did backup catcher Austin Romine, and Cameron Maybin homered as the Yankees routed the White Sox 10-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field Sunday.
After losing three straight, the Yankees (43-27) have now won two in a row, splitting the four-game series with the White Sox (34-36) and returning to the Bronx for a three-game series with the Rays. The Bombers still hold a half-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East.
Once Encarnación arrives, he will be the Yankees primary DH and back-up first baseman, meaning that Stanton will have to play the field. Consequently, that also means less playing time for Gardner, who went 2-for-4 and had his eighth career game of four RBI or more.
The immediate impact Encarnación’s acquisition had was that the Yankees sent Clint Frazier back to Triple-A to make room on the 25-man roster for Encarnación.
But there will be more.
Re-signed to a contract this winter, and pegged as the fourth outfielder and late-game defensive replacement, Gardner will now likely resume the role he was supposed to have this season.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of talented guys in the room, and a lot of talented guys headed back which will do nothing but make our team stronger,” Gardner said. “ You never know what can happen. Nobody expected me to play center field 40 out of the first 45 games this season, but you just never know man. Gotta stay ready. All the guys we have on hand, we’ve got one of the deepest, if not the deepest roster in the league with a lot of talent. So any time you can add someone as good as Edwin, he’s a guy who is going to make us better.
“We’re looking forward to getting him on board. How that affects, that’s not something that I am concerned about right now,”
For Maybin, whose seventh-inning home run extended the Yankees streak to 19 straight games with a home run, the arrival of Encarnación, and the return of Stanton and Judge means his time with the Yankees may be quickly coming to a end. Acquired from Cleveland when Frazier went on the IL in May, Maybin has hit .282 with three homers and 10 RBI in limited playing time. He has been used as a late-game defensive replacement extensively, especially for the defensively-challenged Frazier.
Maybin’s homer also keep alive the Yankees’ streak of having homered and allowing a homer in 15 straight games.
Gio Urshela, another player whose role is about to be diminished, also provided an RBI single in the third. With Encarnación likely to back-up Luke Voit at first, DJ LeMahieu will likely get the majority of his at-bats at third base.
Romine, who may not have his backup catcher role affected that much by Encarnación, drove in four of the Yankees’ first seven runs. He singled in two in the Yankees’ five-run third inning and doubled in two more in the fifth.
James Paxton, coming off his worst start of the season against the Mets (allowed six earned runs in 2.2 innings) went six innings, allowing just two runs. He walked one and struck out seven. David Hale gave up a home run to McCann in the eighth.
While Gardner knows his role with the Yankees going forward, he did take time Sunday to remind everyone that the clubhouse may be missing the star power of a Stanton, Judge or Encarnación, but they are in first place because of guys like Urshela, Maybin and especially Frazier.