Gardner plays the hero vs. Tigers, again

NEW YORK -- This has been a weekend Brett Gardner will never forget.

On Friday night, with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th inning of a tie game, Gardner delivered the game-winning hit -- a single to left field off Detroit's Al Alburquerque. And on Sunday afternoon, with the Yankees and Tigers again tied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Gardner smacked a 94 mph fastball from Jose Veras into the right-field seats, giving the Yanks a 5-4 victory.

"That's the first time I ever hit a walk-off homer, and might be the last," Gardner said, chuckling. "I've had a couple seeing-eye singles, up the middle and through the left side, but never a home run like that. It felt good.

"Didn't matter if it was me or somebody else, we just needed to get a win today, and glad we made it happen."

In both games, Gardner bailed out Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who blew a save each time.

"I think Mo’s bailed us out quite a few times," Gardner said. "Things like that happen."

Actually, Rivera has never blown three saves in a row in his 19-year major league career. But thanks in large part to Gardner, the Yankees still managed to take two of three from the Tigers this weekend, who arrived in New York with the best record in the American League.

Gardner made a huge play in the field Sunday, too. In the bottom of the eighth, with one out, a runner on first and the Yankees up 4-2, Gardner leaped at the center field wall to snag a line drive off the bat of Torii Hunter.

Gardner stayed down immediately after the play and appeared hurt, but got up soon after. "Just completely knocked the breath out of me," he said. "I didn’t get hurt at all."

Left fielder Alfonso Soriano tracked down the ball, and the Yankees doubled up baserunner Austin Jackson to end the inning. "I was just trying to figure out when I was gonna catch my next breath to be honest," Gardner said. "I didn’t really know what happened, I wasn’t even looking up."

After an injury-plagued 2012 in which he played in just 16 games, the 29-year-old Gardner is having the finest year of his career. A fixture in the leadoff spot, he is currently batting .273, with eight home runs and 38 RBIs.

With six weeks left in the season, Gardner already has career-highs in doubles (25) and homers, has 20 stolen bases, and could win a Gold Glove as well.

The Yankees' offense overall has struggled, but you can't blame the center fielder.

"He’s had a chance to play every day," manager Joe Girardi said, "and he’s been really good."