Yankees’ Gardner not sure how to earn more playing time

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Brett Gardner has been one of the Yankees’ hottest hitters for the last two months, hitting .357 with a .440 on-base percentage since April 28.

He’s reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances in the three games since replacing the injured Derek Jeter at the lead-off spot. And in his last 50 games, Gardner has a higher batting average than Robinson Cano, a higher slugging percentage than Alex Rodriguez, and is tied with Curtis Granderson for the team’s highest OPS (.943).

Of course none of this means anything once Jeter returns from his calf injury. Joe Girardi confirmed as much on Tuesday, telling Ben Shpigel of the New York Times that “Derek’s been our leadoff guy. We’ll see how he feels, but yeah.”

Whether Gardner’s overall success will earn him some more starts against left-handers remains to be seen. His splits vs. lefties (.286/.390/.343) isn’t much worse than his numbers vs. righties (.294/.366/.465). One thing that is certain is Gardner would like more playing time:

The Yankees, though, are scheduled to face right-handed starters for at least the next six games. When asked what he could do to change Girardi’s mind, Gardner said, “Hit .400 against them, I don’t know.”

Gardner said the sporadic starts could grow frustrating because, “if you’re not getting a lot of at-bats against lefties, it’s hard to get better against them.”

Gardner’s frustration is understandable, as he’s put together nearly two months of extended success at the plate. Maybe he deserves more opportunity to show what he can do, and maybe he deserves to hit lead-off even after Jeter returns. Then again, you have to wonder if Gardner’s success is partly due to Girardi putting him in situations where he is more likely to do well.

Do you need playing time to succeed, or do you earn playing time by succeeding? Players, naturally, will always argue the former, but it’s a chicken-or-the-egg sort of thing.

Of course, I wouldn’t complain too much if I were Gardner. After all, Girardi gave him a shot to share lead-off duties with Jeter to start the season, and Gardner responded with a 6-for-40 slump. Will Gardner get another chance? If he keeps hitting like this, we’ll find out soon enough.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: The game is the game  — Alen Hanson singled in two runs for the Giants and all the Dodgers got was an RBI single from Manny Machado — but the big story here, obviously, was the benches-clearing brawl kicked off by a shoving match between Yasiel Puig and Nick Hundley.

Everyone is going to talk about the argument and the shoving — including Puig reaching over the guys holding him back to give an open-handed smack to Hundley’s mask-covered face, as you can see in the video below — but I’m more interested in what started it.

As the Giants announcers note, Hundley’s comments to Puig were no doubt some sort of smack talk about Puig being frustrated that he didn’t handle a pitch he thought he should’ve handled. In other words, Puig was mad at himself for not executing and Hundley decided that him being mad at himself is somehow “showing up” Giants pitcher Tony Watson.

What the hell is that about?

Why is it that pitchers can cuss and scream and yell at the sky when they don’t execute a pitch — and my God, do they, as they always have — but if a batter is mad at himself for not putting his best swing on a fat pitch, he’s somehow unsportsmanlike? Or is it just the Giants — who have raced to the top of the “play the game the right way or we’re gonna get a case of the red-ass” rankings over the years — who get mad at this? It’s certainly the case that they’ve made it their mission to police Yasiel Puig. Remember Madison Bumgarner going off on Puig simply for Puig looking at him? And for a bat flip? I’m filing this in that category. My God, they need to get over that guy.

Rockies 5, Astros 1: Justin Verlander was good (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 11K) but German Marquez was better (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7K) and then the Rockies unloaded for three more runs against the Astros’ pen. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story went deep and the Astros went down for the fifth straight game which, combined with the A’s win, reduced their AL West lead to a single game.

Athletics 3, Mariners 2: Mike Fiers won his first game as an Athletic — and the Athletics won their second game started by Mike Fiers — by allowing two runs over six. Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie each went deep. The M’s hung in there pretty admirably considering they lost ace James Paxton in the first inning after he was hit by a comebacker on his pitching arm. Luckily for them Paxton only seems to have a contusion and is considered day-to-day. At the end of the day it was the A’s fourth straight win and, as noted, they are now a day’s work, and a little help from the Rockies, from moving into first place.

Cardinals 6, Nationals 4: On the bright side, the Nats’ bullpen didn’t blow this one. Heck, they only gave up one run in four innings of work. The Cards scored five off of Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, however, with Cardinals starter John Gant hitting a homer and Kolten Wong adding a bomb of his own. Gant likewise allowed only one run while pitching into the sixth and the Nats’ late attempt at a comeback, fueled by a two-run homer from Bryce Harper, fell short. The Cardinals have won nine of ten and climb to within four games of the Cubs in the Central and are only a game behind the Phillies in the Wild Card race. I guess firing Mike Matheny was the right move, huh? Washington, meanwhile, has lost six of eight and falls eight games back in the NL East. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

Brewers 7, Cubs 0: Ryan Braun hit two homers and drove in four, Lorenzo Cain and Erik Kratz each went deep too and Jhoulys Chacin dominated the Cubs for seven innings, shutting them out and punching out 10. Not literally, of course. Apparently the high of Sunday night’s walkoff win didn’t carry over the off-day on Monday for Chicago. Indeed, the 2018 Cubs have been a case study in anti-momentum.

Orioles 6, Mets 3: The Mets held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth but Adam Jones homered then, Chris Davis homered in the seventh and Tim Beckham homered in the eighth to help Baltimore push past ’em. That ends the Orioles’ five-game losing streak but fear not: today is a new day and a new losing streak is always likely to begin once again.

Yankees 4, Rays 1: J.A. Happ allowed only one hit over seven innings, continuing his strong run to begin the Yankees portion of his career. It was his third win in as many starts since being acquired. Austin Romine hit a two-run homers, Greg Bird knocked in a run on a double, Aaron Hicks singled in a run and Miguel Andujar doubled twice.

Red Sox 2, Phillies 1: The Yankees have won seven of nine since that ugly sweep at the hands of the Red Sox the weekend before last, but they’ve actually lost ground to Boston in the standings, which has won seven of eight in that time. They’re just a machine. Here it was Rick Porcello allowing only one run while striking out ten over seven innings, backed by just enough offense in the form of solo homers from Sandy Leon and Brock Holt. Holt’s was a pinch-hit number. Holt’s was the 168th homer hit by the Red Sox in 2018. They hit 168 bombs in the entire 2017 season.

White Sox 6, Tigers 3: It was 3-3 after the first inning and 3-0 from then on out. Two of the White Sox’ first inning runs came on a two-run sacrifice fly. Yes, you heard me:

There cannot be enough Pepto in the world for Ron Gardenhire after watching that play.

Indians 8, Reds 1: Corey Kluber allowed one run over seven. The Indians were nowhere nearly as impressed with Reds starter Sal Romano, who got tagged for six runs on seven hits in the first inning and two-thirds. The Indians only got three hits for the rest of the game after Romano left, but one of ’em was a two-run Jose Ramirez homer. He went 3-for-5 on the night. Yonder Alonso drove in three runs in the first two innings.

Braves 10, Marlins 6: The Ronald Acuña show continued as the Braves young rookie hit his third leadoff home run in as many games, added another bomb for his sixth homer in the past five games and his eighth homer in his last eight games. He’s also drove in four, giving him 15 RBI in his last eight games. He pushed his batting line up to .288/.346/.576 on the season. Guess those couple of weeks in the minors at the beginning of the year are what made him good. Freddie Freeman hit his 20th homer to tie the game in the sixth, and Dansby Swanson hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh as the Braves win for the 13th time in their last 17 games and take a two-game lead in the NL East over Philly.

Diamondbacks 6, Rangers 4: Patrick Corbin allowed three over seven Daniel Descalso drove in two runs and scored on a wild pitch in the first four innings which, along with a Paul Goldschmidt homer, put the Snakes up 4-0 early and they held on. Corbin hasn’t given up a homer in ten starts. That ties him with Chris Sale for the longest such streak going right now.

Twins 5, Pirates 2: Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 2-0 lead but that’s all they’d get. Miguel Sano hit a two-run homer, Jake Cave singled in a run and Jorge Polanco knocked in two with a single. That was actually the reverse order in which it happened. I put it that way because I’m receiving fat product placement money from the author Martin Amis in service of a viral marketing campaign for his 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow. Just felt like I should offer full disclosure there, as I know I have built up a lot of trust with y’all over the years.

Blue Jays 6, Royals 5: Kevin Pillar hit a two-run homer in the eighth to turn a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 lead for Toronto and that lead would hold up. He had earlier singled in the Jays’ second run of the game. Danny Jansen went deep. Russell Martin got plunked once with the bases loaded to drive in a run the hard way. Adalberto Mondesi had four hits, including two doubles, stole three bases, drove in a run and scored a run for Kansas City but baseball is a team sport so none of that ultimately mattered.

Angels 7, Padres 3: Threes ruled for the Angels. Justin Upton had three hits, homered for the second straight game and drove in three, Taylor Ward made his big league debut, doubled in a run and reached base safely three times and Eric Young Jr. tripled — three bases! — and had two RBI for Los Angeles. Man, if he had only drove in three it would’ve been important. It would’ve meant something. *sculpts potatoes*