There is no other outfielder on the Yankees who makes the play. There are few in baseball that come up with it. In the third inning, with CC Sabathia and the Yankees reeling, Josh Willingham hit a liner that looked like it had eyes for the outfield grass and another run.
Instead, Brett Gardner did his Usain Bolt routine, sprinting in to make a sliding catch that saved Sabathia a run and left the Yankees down just two instead of three and counting in the third.
"I hate to say you expect it, but he is a great outfielder," Sabathia said after the Yankees ran away and hid in their 8-3 win over the Twins on Tuesday night.
Yankees managerJoe Girardi started Gardner in left because he entered 5-for-12 against lefty Francisco Liriano in his career. In the second inning, he made it 6-for-13 by knocking an RBI double to tie the game at one.
After saving Sabathia in the field, Gardner was in the middle of the Yankees' four-run third, walking and scoring a run. He finished the night 2-for-2, adding a second double in the fifth off lefty reliever Matt Maloney.
Gardner walked twice and scored three times. He is now 6-for-7 against left-handers on the season.
Playing Gardner against lefties should be the rule, not the exception, because the numbers support it. His career on-base percentage is basically the same against lefties and righties, hovering around .350. Gardner has begun the year by emphatically making his case for more playing time.
"I guess it is good," Gardner said. "To try and let them know I can do it against [lefties] too. But it is not something I really worry about."
Plus, the defense that the Yankees lose when Gardner is out is not worth the slight added power and batting average they gain with Andruw Jones in left.
"I think he has played against the last two left-handers, hasn't he?" Girardi said. "As I told Gardy, I was going to try and get Jonesy in. There will be some matchups that are more favorable than others. There might be some that are more favorable for Gardy, then you give Grandy a day off. He is going to play a lot. The thing about Gardy is I want to keep him fresh, too, in a sense."
Gardner jammed his wrist on the catch, but he said by the end of the game it had improved.
"It actually feels better now than when it happened," Gardner said. "That is definitely positive. It is the kind of thing that usually gets worse as the game goes on."