Brett Gardner has gotten hot at the plate recently and had his best game of the season Tuesday against the Astros, but with Houston southpaw Dallas Keuchel on the mound Wednesday night for the series finale, Gardner was out of the starting lineup as Aaron Boone seeks to keep players fresh amid a stretch of 14 games in 13 days.
“I’ve made a commitment that I’m going to pick days here, especially the first several months of the season, and I’ve had this conversation with Gardy, we’re gonna pick spots when you’re gonna be down. And usually that’s going to be against a left-handed pitcher,” Boone said. “And as we’re through this stretch, we go to Baltimore and we face four righties, so I kind of envision him playing every day. I think his last off day was (May 22) in Texas. So there’s just gonna be these days when I pick a spot when he’s down to just try and preserve him and keep him from tiring out in the second half, especially. So this seemed like the obvious day for him to give him a blow.”
Gardner had a season-high four hits Tuesday and registered his sixth career multi-homer game, leading off with a homer in the first and hitting a two-run, game-tying homer in the ninth inning before the Yanks won the following inning.
Entering Wednesday, Gardner had hit safely in eight of his last nine games, hitting .368 with three homers, three doubles, five RBI and five runs during that stretch. After a slow start to the season which saw him with a .194 batting average and .315 on-base percentage through May 3, his batting average was up to .256 and OBP up to .363 entering Wednesday.
Boone said “I guess that’s fair” when asked if Gardner is overlooked with the attention on the team’s younger players. “Obviously when people talk about us a lot, and rightfully so, they talk a lot about kind of the outstanding young players contributing to what we’re doing. But it’s not really lost on me,” Boone said. “There’s just such an at-bat quality that he starts every game off with it seems like, there’s just a tone he sets on the field, in our clubhouse, the toughness with the way he goes about things, that I think rubs off on our room and then obviously the defense he brings on a nightly basis.”