Gardner's spark quickly extinguished

Gardner's spark quickly extinguished

NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner had been talking for about 10 minutes, doing his best to summarize the surgery that Cliff Lee had just performed on the Yankees' offense, when he captured the buildup of frustration with a single run-on sentence.

"It's tough when a guy's on top of his game like that and you're trying to get things going, and no matter how hard you try or no matter what you do, you can't seem to get anything going," Gardner said.

Gardner was the bright spot of the Yankees' offense in Monday night's 8-0 loss to the Rangers in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, but that's kind of like being a point of light in a black hole. In recording the only hard-hit single off Lee, Gardner pretty much lapped the competition for that distinction.

Facing a pitcher of Lee's stature -- and on a night when he is so clearly, from the start, on top of his game -- it was obvious the Yankees were going to need to manufacture some runs. That's Gardner's specialty, and he knew going in that "every little play matters" -- like the one he made beating out an infield single in the eighth inning of Game 1.

In Game 3, though, Lee and the fates conspired to prevent those plays from sparking New York's offense.

With two outs in the third, Gardner hit a grounder to first baseman Mitch Moreland's right. Gardner's head-first slide appeared to beat Lee to first, but Gardner's left hand skidded past the bag without ever making contact with it. It seemed fitting; with the way Lee was pitching, there appeared to be a force field around first for New York's offense.

"It was real, real close," Gardner said of the play at first. "I wasn't sure if I got the base or not, even on replay. ... It wasn't worth arguing over."

Gardner led off the sixth with that clean single to center -- just the Bombers' second hit of the night. He was able to steal second off the battery of Lee and Bengie Molina, putting himself in scoring position with no outs.

"He's difficult to run against," Gardner said. "You just try to pick a pitch, get a runner in scoring position and get some things going."

Derek Jeter, however, couldn't get Gardner to third, striking out instead. Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira each grounded out to end the inning.

"It's frustrating, but it was kind of frustrating all night," Gardner said. "We had trouble getting guys on base, getting things going. It just wasn't our night."