Gard­ner grinds out key 12-pitch at-bat

New York Post - - SPORTS - By JOEL SHER­MAN joel.sher­man@ny­post.com

CLEVE­LAND — Brett Gard­ner came to bat with two outs, run­ners on first and sec­ond in the ninth in­ning. In that sit­u­a­tion — with the open base third and the AL homer lead on deck — in­ten­tion­ally walk­ing Gard­ner is against the book with the Yan­kees up a run. But Judge had looked dread­ful all se­ries. He was 1-for-19 with 16 strike­outs, in­clud­ing four in four at-bats to that point in Wednesday’s game. Gard­ner had two hits in Game 5 and, though, he had struck out in the fifth, it came at the con­clu­sion of a 12-pitch, left-ver­sus-left bat­tle against the over­pow­er­ing An­drew Miller. But In­di­ans man­ager Terry Fran­cona ig­nored the small pic­ture of this se­ries, say­ing, “If we walk [Gard­ner] and Judge hits a ball 500 feet, I would have a hard time liv­ing with that. You’re going to walk a guy to get to a guy that drove in a 100 [runs]. No, that would be hard to do.” Gard­ner, though, did what he does best as a hit­ter — he turned an at-bat into a saga. He had made him­self from a fourth-out­field type to an above-av­er­age ma­jor lea­guer by never tak­ing off a pitch, never giv­ing away an at-bat. This was his tour de force.

Cody Allen’s stuff is just a notch down from Miller, but Gard­ner waged yet an­other 12-pitch at-bat. He fouled off five straight full-count pitches be­fore he fi­nally darted a sin­gle to right to drive home one run and Todd Fra­zier hus­tled home for a sec­ond when Jay Bruce’s throw back to the in­fielder bounded away from Fran­cisco Lin­dor. That gave the Yan­kees a 5-2 lead and pretty much as­sured they would win Game 5, clinch this Di­vi­sion Se­ries and move onto the ALCS.

“That was one of the great­est, big-mo­ment at­bats I have ever seen,” said Jim Hendry, a spe­cial ad­viser to Yan­kees gen­eral man­ager Brian Cash­man.

Of the at-bat, Gard­ner said, “It is an eter­nity, es­pe­cially ver­sus a guy with as good a stuff as Cody Allen.”

At the end of the eter­nity, the long­est con­tin­u­ous tenured Yan­kee had pro­duced one of the big­gest hits of his ca­reer.

BRETT GARD­NER Time to cel­e­brate.

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