Right before he was about to speak to reporters, one of the Yankee heroes of the night, Brett Gardner, went into the showers directly behind his locker stall inside the Yankees’ clubhouse and told his jubilant teammates to quiet down.
“Gardy pimped a (freaking) wall scraper!” Aaron Judge, who used to stay with Gardner at the 34-year-old’s home in suburban New York before his fast ascension toward superstardom, could be heard yelling.
Gardner is one of the leaders of these Bombers, a hard-nosed, lead-by-example mainstay. He didn’t want his teammates getting into trouble, saying something they’d regret the media hearing. Granted Judge was just having some fun, giving Gardner a hard time.
Credit Gardner with yet another kind of assist after he delivered in the clutch on Tuesday night.
With the Yankees trailing the Astros 5-3, Gardner stepped to the plate against Chris Devenski with one on and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. The count was 0-1 when Gardner connected with a 97-mph fastball from the Astros righty and sent it high toward right.
George Springer gave it his best shot at the wall, but couldn’t bring it back with a leaping grab.
Just like that, the game was tied – a thriller the Bombers went on to win in the 10th, 6-5.
Gardner, who hit two homers on this night – including that 348-foot, two-run shot over the Lays Potato Chips sign – raised his left index finger in the air and when he realized the ball was out. Soon, he was crossing the plate and jumping high to exchange high-fives with he 6-foot-7 Judge.
“We’ve seen (Springer) bring some of those back before,” Gardner said. “Thank goodness it got out.”
Gardner also led off the game by drilling a 97-mph heater from Charlie Morton out of the park. He finished 4-for-5 – with the sixth multi-homer game of his career. There was also his leaping grab in front of the wall to rob J.D. Davis of extra bases in the second.
In his last nine games, Gardner is hitting .368 with three of the four homers he’s hit this season.
“He makes this team go,” fellow veteran leader CC Sabathia said. “When he’s on, we’re going to see this lineup score a lot of runs.”
Gardner’s 2018 campaign got off to a slow start. He was flirting with both sides of the Mendoza Line the first half of May. But he seems to be turning a corner.
“Usually when I get in a funk and I’m struggling, my timing is a little off,” Gardner said. “You can probably say that for most hitters. It’s all about timing and rhythm, and I’ve been on time and just put some good swings in the zone.”
The Astros rotation – featuring arguably five aces – has been nothing short of excellent. But the Bombers have shown the ability to get to their bullpen, with Tuesday night’s comeback making everyone think back to Game 4 of the ALCS right here in the Bronx.
It also made everyone forget about the fact they committed a season-high five errors.
“They’ve got some good arms down there,” Gardner said, noting Houston’s relievers may have been beat up as a result of their 14-inning loss on Sunday in Cleveland. “But even if they had our bullpen, I’d still want their starter out of there. That’s how good their starters are. And the numbers speak for themselves.”
On Tuesday night, Gardner’s numbers spoke for themselves – prompting No. 99 to give his veteran teammate a good-natured ribbing. And it came as no surprise that Gardner had Judge’s back.