A smoke machine draped the Yankees’ clubhouse in a haze, like something from a Grateful Dead concert. The booming music belonged to Studio 54’s heyday. And the celebration told you everything about what a two-game sweep over the Red Sox meant to the Yankees — even if it happened in April.
That Brett Gardner, the longest tenured Yankee, delivered a seventh-inning grand slam that carried the hosts to a 5-3 victory Wednesday evening in front of 44,106 at Yankee Stadium only added to the biggest win of the young season.
“Bases loaded against Boston,’’ Aaron Judge said of Gardner’s at-bat against Ryan Brasier who got ahead of the center fielder, 0-2. “Nobody I would rather have in that situation.’’
Others might have selected Judge, but Gardner, who was 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position for the season, 0-for-3 in the game and hitting .190 at the time, certainly rewarded Judge’s belief in the clubhouse sage whose homer was the 100th of his career and fourth of the season.
“To come through in a spot like that, that felt good,’’ Gardner said of the no-doubt-about-it blast that cleared the right-center field fence and was corralled by a quartet of men from Greenwich, Conn. who met Gardner after the game and were each given signed balls and got a quick look inside the clubhouse. “All around, we played a [great]game.’’
After giving up three runs on two homers in his first 1²/₃ innings, J.A. Happ delivered 4²/₃ scoreless frames to give the Yankees a chance despite former teammate Nathan Eovaldi limiting them to a run through six innings.“Guys were coming up to me and saying, ‘We are going to win the game, keep it here,’ ” said Happ, who believed Gardner was one of the positive voices.
Despite decent numbers, the Red Sox bullpen has been viewed as the club’s biggest weakness and that was the reason it dropped to 6-13 and 8½ lengths back of the AL East-leading Rays.
Brandon Workman loaded the bases in the seventh when Clint Frazier (3-for-4) led off with a single to left and Mike Tauchman walked. After Gio Urshela whiffed, Austin Romine walked to load the bases for Gardner.
Gardner fell into a quick 0-2 hole before Braiser decided a fastball was the best option. The decision was a bad one and sent the Yankee dugout into pandemonium and left Red Sox manager Alex Cora feeling blue.
“He tried to go up in the zone and it wasn’t up enough,’’ Cora said. “It was right in his swing path.’’
That blast sent the Stadium into a frenzy.
“It was chaos, the Stadium was rocking,’’ Judge said. “It was a big moment.’’
Despite the uplifting homer there were two frames remaining and when Adam Ottavino loaded the bases in the eighth by giving up two singles and a walk with two outs, the anxiety level rose in the Yankees’ dugout. Ottavino responded by getting Eduardo Nunez on a stress-free fly to right.