Both wins so far this week for the Yankees can be credited to Brett Gardner. Specifically, you can credit his speed.
On Monday, he beat the Angels with his legs in the ninth inning, which is usually something the Angels do to beat the Yankees. Gardner pinch ran for Mark Teixeira after he doubled with one out, stole third base and scored on the throw that squeaked down the left field line.
Last night, Gardner led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. He stole second on an 0-2 count to Derek Jeter, and then advanced to third on his groundout. This put the speedy Gardner at third with less than two out for Francisco Cervelli, who hit the walk-off single.
Cervelli took the pie in the face, but really, the win should be credited to Gardner. Jeter’s groundball could have been a double play to clear the bases. Instead, Gardner was on third with one out.
Gardner has stolen 22 bases in 27 tries this season, an 81.5 percent success rate. Dave Roberts stole 38/41 in 2004, but his steal of second base in the ninth inning of the fourth game of the ALCS was the most important. Without that steal, the Red Sox may still be riding the Curse of the Bambino.
When guys like Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford get singles and walk a lot, they become some of the most valuable players in baseball. Not only do they greatly distract the pitcher from their duties with the batter, but they also get themselves to second base for a virtual double.
Even if Gardner is used as a pinch runner, while starting Melky Cabrera instead, it doesn’t hurt his value. Knowing that he has a good shot at scoring a run if he is put on first base with nobody out is a good feeling.
This is why I am asking Gardy to act as the 2004 model of Dave Roberts. When it comes time for the postseason, fans will soon realize just how valuable a weapon his speed really is.
This article is also featured on lenNY’s Yankees.