The Associated PressNEW YORK (AP) — When it comes to Brett Gardner, first-year Yankees manager Aaron Boone believes in metrics and makeup.
Even as Gardner’s batting average dipped under .200, Boone was optimistic. For starters, Gardner’s exit velocities and other advanced stats indicated a breakout was coming. Plus, the speedy leadoff man was still getting on base.
It wasn’t just the numbers, though.
“He’s just a broad-shouldered, tough player,” Boone said. “He just has a way of competing in the biggest spots.”
Gardner capped a slump-busting performance with a go-ahead, two-run triple off Craig Kimbrel in the eighth inning, Aaron Judge followed with a homer and New York rallied to beat the Boston Red Sox 9-6 Wednesday night for its 17th victory in 18 games.
Kimbrel entered with two on and one out to face Gardner seeking the first five-out save of his career. Gardner drilled a full-count pitch into left-center, well over the head of center fielder Mookie Betts, who was playing shallow.
Neil Walker scored easily from third and rookie Gleyber Torres raced from first and slid past a lunging tag attempted by catcher Christian Vazquez.
“There’s just a toughness that he plays the game with,” Boone said of Gardner. “Tonight, I was happy to see him break through.”
Judge followed with a line drive to center measured at 117 mph off the bat, his ninth homer of the season. He had three hits, three RBIs and a diving catch in right field as New York won its eighth straight overall and 11th in a row at home.
New York (26-10) broke a tie with Boston for first place in the AL East and has sole possession of the best record in the majors for the first time since July 27, 2012. The Yankees are on a 35-8 tear in the Bronx since Sept. 2, including the postseason, and at 16-5 have the best home record in the majors this year.
Fans at a sold-out Yankee Stadium went wild in the eighth. Judge compared it to the postseason atmosphere last October, and the party spilled over onto River Avenue so loudly it could still be heard back inside the stadium 15 minutes after the game.
“It’s May, and it was bedlam,” Boone said. “It was fun to be a part of that.”
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his ninth save.