Gard­ner, Robert­son help Yan­kees ad­vance to play­off se­ries with In­di­ans

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NEW YORK — The New York Yan­kees are back in a play­off se­ries for the first time in five years, back in a set­ting that once seemed au­to­matic. They once did it 13 years in a row, a streak that stopped in 2008, the year they wel­comed David Robert­son and Brett Gard­ner to the ros­ter. The hia­tus lasted only a year then, a cham­pi­onship quickly fol­lowed, and Gard­ner has never left. Robert­son did for a while, after the Yan­kees chose a dif­fer­ent re­liever, An­drew Miller, in free agency. They traded Miller to the In­di­ans last sum­mer, and now they will face him in a di­vi­sion se­ries start­ing Thurs­day in Cleve­land. “They have the best team in the Amer­i­can League and maybe the best ro­ta­tion in base­ball — but no­body that we haven’t seen yet,” Gard­ner said. “We’ve faced those guys. We’re look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge.” The Yan­kees earned the date largely through the ef­forts of Gard­ner and of Robert­son, who re­turned in a trade with the Chicago White Sox in July. Gard­ner home­red and scored three runs in the Yan­kees’ 8-4 vic­tory over the Min­nesota Twins on Tues­day night. Robert­son won it with 3 1/3 score­less in­nings. Robert­son’s only longer out­ing as a pro came nine years ago, for the Class AA Tren­ton Thun­der. He threw more fast­balls then, and now he throws more curve­balls than ever. On Tues­day, he kept bounc­ing the pitch in the dirt, and the Twins kept flail­ing. “A lot of guys throw so hard now that the hit­ters are just geared up for a fast­ball,” Robert­son said. “So for me, I have to be a lit­tle sneakier and I have to put a lit­tle more break on the ball and try to be smart.” Robert­son car­ried the big­gest bur­den of the Yan­kees’ bullpen re­lay after the Twins clob­bered starter Luis Sev­erino. In con­junc­tion with Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chap­man, Robert­son helped the Yan­kees throw 8 2/3 in­nings of re­lief against the Twins, a fig­ure they have matched just once be­fore in the post­sea­son: Game 6 of the 1958 World Se­ries. Now, for the Yan­kees, it is win and go to Cleve­land, with Gard­ner lead­ing the way. The Yan­kees have not had a cap­tain since Derek Jeter re­tired, but Gard­ner fills the role. He showed how when he led off the first in­ning Tues­day, trail­ing by 3-0, against a vet­eran Al­lS­tar, Ervin San­tana. Gard­ner took seven pitches in a row, draw­ing a walk. Three bat­ters later, Didi Gre­go­rius home­red to tie the game. “He fell be­hind on me, so it kind of made my job a lit­tle eas­ier,” Gard­ner said. “But that was my goal, to get up on the plate and re­ally make him throw strikes, take a strike, maybe even take two strikes, and just re­ally slow the game down, try to get a run or two and get back in the game.” Paul Moli­tor, the Twins’ man­ager, has been a “big Gard­ner fan” for years. “He never takes a day on the field for granted,” Moli­tor said. “He’s got a game that I think is a lit­tle bit old school, and it fits the New York fan’s pro­file. That’s the kind of guy you want to have out there.”

Brett Gard­ner

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