Brett Gardner said he probably understands the frustrations of the game of baseball better than most, which is why the Yankees veteran is hoping he can build upon his latest offensive breakthrough.
After going 2-for-33 in his previous 15 games, Gardner smoked a two-out, two-run double down the right-field line in the top of the fourth to give the Yankees a two-run lead over the Astros on the way to their 4-0 victory in the series opener Friday night in Houston.
Noting that he has felt better at the plate than the numbers show, Gardner said he hopes that big double will give him the spark he needs to finish the first half strong.
“It’s one of those things that when things aren’t going good, they just seem to continue to pile on and sometimes you’re not sure if you’ll find your way out of it or not,” Gardner said after the win. “But I feel good at the plate, I’m seeing the ball well, I feel good about my work and hopefully that is the one that kind of sparks things and get things going in the right direction because obviously these are important games against good opponents.”
The longest-tenured Yankee may have been a difference-maker in the win, in which he also scored a run after walking in the seventh, but the 37-year-old is about to wrap up an underwhelming first half of the 2021 season. Batting .191 so far this season with just three home runs and 13 RBIs after Friday night, Gardner has not been able to contribute as he once did.
“I still feel like it’s absolutely in there,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ve seen over the last couple years, he’s gotten a little bit better as the seasons wore on and he’s had some good second halves for us. Hoping that’s the case for this season as well.”
Gardner may be close to turning the corner offensively, but his struggles at the plate have been just a footnote to the Yankees’ overall lack of production from their center and left fielders.
The Yankees have been thin in the outfield since center fielder Aaron Hicks suffered a season-ending wrist injury, for which he underwent surgery at the end of May. Clint Frazier, who began the season as the starting left fielder, has been on the 10-day injured list to undergo further testing for his vertigo symptoms since July 2. Plus, Miguel Andujar has been diagnosed with a left wrist strain, which he sustained in the series-opener against the Mariners on Tuesdaynight. Boone said a decision on whether to put Andujar, who battled with Frazier for the job in left field last month, on the IL will be made Saturday.
“Obviously, not having [Hicks] is big for our club,” Boone said. “Just because of [his] switch-hitting … the lefty kind of breaks up our righties. We’ve certainly missed that and our offense has been hurt by a lack of production from a few positions that we need to get a little bit more out of.”
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