NEW YORK — As he approached first base, Brett Gardner shot his right arm in the air and glanced back toward the Yankees dugout.
His teammates had already rushed to the top step, cheering along with the Yankee Stadium crowd at Gardner’s go-ahead home run in Wednesday night’s seventh inning.
Not just a homer, but a grand slam.
And the 100th homer of Gardner’s career, a blast to right, lifted the Yankees to a 5-3 victory and sunk the Red Sox to another unimaginable depth in this awful April for the defending world champs.
The injury-riddled Yankees (8-9) were stumbling around as well, failing to take advantage of a soft schedule before the Red Sox (6-13) arrived in town for a two-game series.
But lefty James Paxton’s sharp effort on Tuesday and Gardner’s late heroics on Wednesday have suddenly sparked the Yankees.
Now, Aaron Boone’s club has a golden chance to keep that momentum going as the Kansas City Royals – residing in last place in the AL Central – enter the Bronx to play a four-game series beginning on Thursday night.
Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi yielded just one unearned run over six innings, but he threw 104 pitches. Brandon Workman began the home seventh, on to protect a 3-1 Boston lead. And the reliever found himself instantly in trouble.
Clint Frazier led off the inning with his third hit of the game and Mike Tauchman – who drove in four runs the previous night, and hit his first career home run – drew a walk.
With one out, No. 9 hitter Austin Romine walked to load the bases and Boston manager Alex Cora brought in Ryan Brasier to face Gardner, the Yanks’ longest-tenured player.
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There are no lefties in Cora’s bullpen.
Ahead 0-and-2, Brasier watched his next delivery go screaming into the lower right field seats.
Gardner’s personal milestone homer – also his fourth of the year and fourth career grand slam – gave the Yankees an instant 5-3 lead and set off a Stadium-wide chorus of derisive Boston chants.