Since 2008, Brett Gardner has been a fixture in the New York Yankees starting lineup. He’s seen multiple postseason runs. He’s even been on the winning end of the World Series championship.
So when the Yankees made their first trip to the American League Division Series since 2012, Gardner was ready to lead the young charge.
Gardner flew under the radar while the likes of Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, David Robertson and CC Sabathia claimed the spotlight. But in Game 5 of the ALDS, Gardner played an important role which made all the difference in the Yankees 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians.
Gardner had two hits on the night before his ninth inning at-bat; he singled twice and came around to score on Gregorius’ second home run of the night. But for his third hit, Gardner had the chance to give the Yankees insurance runs. Gardner faced off against Indians closer Cody Allen with Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier on base. From there, Gardner partook in one of the longest at-bats of the postseason. Gardner worked a full count against Allen before fouling off some tough pitches.
The at-bat was filled with intensity, and after three minutes, Allen had thrown 11 pitches to Gardner. On the 12th pitch of the at-bat, Allen flinched.
Gardner lined a two-run single to right field, making it one of the biggest at-bats of the postseason. As soon as Gardner made it to first, Indians fans in Progressive Field started filing out of the ballpark, knowing that Gardner delivered the final blow to their postseason dreams.
Gardner’s at-bat was symbolic in more ways than one; not only did he help punch the Yankees ticket to the ALCS, but he demonstrated just how hard the ball club fought during the entire division series.
The Yankees were down 2-0 after blowing last Friday’s game, and it seemed they were once again poised to make a quick playoff exit. However, the team never stopped fighting. They picked up manager Joe Girardi when he made a monstrumental mistake in Game 2, and the team never looked back. They swept their home portion of the round before forcing a decisive Game 5. Regardless of the outcome, they showed fight.
While Allen was disappointed the Indians season came to a screeching halt, he tipped his cap to Gardner, who saw 34 pitches on the night after a one-pitch out in the top of the first inning.
Cody Allen: “Every team in baseball could use a Brett Gardner.”
Every team could and should have a Brett Gardner. But the Yankees have the original. And as it turns out, not trading Gardner and offering him an extension was one of the best moves in recent years.