MINNEAPOLIS — Brett Gardner hit a career-high 28 homers during the regular season and hit so well throughout the year he’s been in the three-hole for the entire ALDS.
In Monday’s 5-1 series-clinching Game 3 win over the Twins, Gardner delivered another RBI, but this one came in more typical Gardner fashion.
With the Yankees leading 1-0, Gio Urshela led off the third with a double to left-center, where Jake Cave made an ill-conceived and poorly executed diving attempt. Urshela wound up at second and moved to third on a grounder to short by DJ LeMahieu.
Aaron Judge then struck out looking and the Yankees were on the verge of wasting a golden scoring opportunity against Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi.
For most of Gardner’s at-bat, third baseman Miguel Sano played near the bag, but he took several steps to his left once Gardner got to two strikes.
That’s when Gardner hit a chopper right to where Sano had been stationed before moving and a diving Sano couldn’t get to the ball, which went into left for a run-scoring single to make it 2-0.
“I’m just glad I got a hit and came through there,’’ Gardner said. “I didn’t care how it happened.’’
Gardner drove in a run in all three games with a homer in Game 1, when Aaron Boone initially defended his decision to hit Gardner No. 3.
“Having two lefties [with Didi Gregorius], so just trying to, first and foremost, space those guys out,’’ Boone said before Game 1. “Our lefties have hit in some spots all year because we don’t have a lot of them, especially with Aaron Hicks down. You are just trying to space them out. I feel like the year [Gardner] has had and the matchup here makes sense to have him. It’s clear in my mind to have him in that three-hole.’’
It’s been quite a change from last year for Gardner, who started only three of the Yankees’ five postseason games then and batted ninth each time.