Citi Field’s right field isn’t too big for Brett Gardner.
That’s why Aaron Boone was not afraid to sit Aaron Hicks in favor of the blistering-hot Gardner on Friday night.
Before the game, Gardner was raving to The Post about how good a pitcher Jacob deGrom is, and you could see how fired up the veteran outfielder was for this matchup.
No one in the Yankees’ clubhouse enjoys a challenge more than the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Gardner. He is the heart and soul of this Yankees club.
Gardner, 34, responded by getting the first hit off deGrom to lead off the fourth, a single. In the sixth, his walk set the table for the Yankees’ first run. Then in the eighth, after rookie Gleyber Torres put together a terrific at-bat to line a two-out single to left, Gardner ripped a 1-0, 87-mph changeup just over the right-field wall, 384 feet from home plate.
This was not Yankee Stadium’s short porch. Gardner’s two-run blast lifted the Yankees to a dramatic 4-1 win over deGrom, who is simply cursed as a Met. In the ninth, Giancarlo Stanton added a solo shot, the Yankees’ 100th home run of the season.
Gardner was up to the Subway Series task. It’s not just talent that makes a difference. It is desire. Gardner has always taken a football perspective to the diamond.
Veterans know and respect other veterans. Listen to what Stanton and Neil Walker told me about Gardner:
“That’s the mentality you got to have to be around as along as he have and keep doing it, keep finding ways to get it done,’’ Stanton said of Gardner’s true grit.
Noted Walker: “Gardy is one of the more reliable players I have ever played with when you need a big at-bat. He’s as good as they come, he sets the tone for us, on the field, off the field, in my opinion, he’s what Yankee baseball is all about.’’
There you have it.
“He means so much to our team,” Boone said. “Kind of the heartbeat, what he brings every day. Just game-plan-wise today, really on it. Came up in a big spot there and snuck one out of there. Just quality at-bats all the time and for the better part of a month now, the results have followed those quality at-bats. He’s a savage for us up at the top.’’
A savage. That’s what it takes to beat the Great deGrom.
“He’s a guy who is as good as it gets,’’ Gardner said of the Mets’ right-hander. “That was a big win for us.’’
Gardner, playing in his 40th Subway Series game, is on a tear.
He is batting .367 over the past 15 games with four home runs and has hit safely in 14 of those games. This was a Gardy Party. Yankees fans who came over to Citi Field had as much of a blast as Gardner. The home run was the fifth of the season for Gardner.
The Mets have hit 60 homers. the Yankees have them by 40.
“DeGrom is a guy who is tough to get to and tough to accumulate runs against,’’ Gardner said of the Mets’ ace, who has surrendered 14 earned runs and just four home runs over 80 ¹/₃ innings. “One of the best righties in the game.”
Gardner described the Subway Series as a “great atmosphere.”
“It’s important to win that first game of a three-game series,” he said. “Unless you are playing for the Yankees or [are] a Yankees fan, everybody else pretty much hates the Yankees. The Mets are trying their hardest to beat us. We’re the crosstown rivalries so we have to be ready to play.’’
The Yankees grind.
“We’ve got a really good lineup top to bottom,’’ Gardner said of the team’s ability to find a way.
Asked if he lights up when he sees a changeup like that, Gardner smiled and said: “I light up when it goes over the fence. I’m not a guy who goes deep every time a pitcher makes a mistake.’’
Here is the essential Yankees mindset.
“No situation is too big for us,’’ Gardner said of his team. “This was a big game for us.’’
Gardner, again, was the one leading the way.
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