No one in the New York clubhouse after the game seemed to care how the win had come about.
"This is a big win for us today, because we've been scuffling," manager Joe Girardi said. "We've been scuffling to score runs, and maybe this is the game we needed to get us back on the winning track."
Gardner stepped to the plate in the decisive frame to face Royals reliever Jeff Fulchino with two outs. At first he said he was just looking to hit something hard, so he swung at the first two fastballs only to send them foul into the stands.
"I got behind 0-2 within a period of about 15 seconds, and I was like, 'Oh no, not this again,'" Gardner said. "And then he just missed on a couple fastballs."
Gardner remained patient. He waited as Fulchino threw three fastballs outside the zone to build to a full count. Gardner guessed that the next pitch would be another fastball, and the estimation paid off as he connected for the game-winning hit.
"I just lost control of that at-bat," Fulchino said. "I went from 0-2 to 3-2 and went from being in the driver's seat to being in the back seat."
The RBI single gave New York (65-58) a much-needed win, but the victory overshadowed continued struggles at the plate in scoring opportunities. Before Gardner's hit, the Yankees were 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position. They squandered two bases-loaded chances and left 13 runners on base.
"We left numerous opportunities out there," Alex Rodriguez said. "I think each one of us is trying to pick each other up, and yeah, it probably weighs on us a little bit. But the important thing is we won the game."
"At this point, it doesn't make a difference how it looks. We need to get wins."
-- Derek Jeter
Cano put some life into the Yankees' offense when he sent a line drive to right field and legged out a triple in the seventh inning. The hit drove in A-Rod to put New York on the board, and Cano sprinted across the plate off a wild pitch from Kansas City starter Zack Greinke to tie the game.
"However it comes, it comes," Girardi said.
Cano's RBI triple gave the Yankees a much-needed spark after New York didn't produce any scoring opportunities early. Greinke kept the Yankees off the bases and without a hit through the first three innings.
But New York starter Sidney Ponson delivered an impressive performance of his own to limit the damage from Kansas City (55-68). He kept his team within striking distance, allowing just two earned runs through 6 1/3 innings. Ponson gave up a solo shot to third baseman Alex Gordon at the start of the second inning, but then retired nine of the next 10 batters.
"He's been really big for our rotation," Girardi said. "Not only has he thrown the ball well, but he's given us innings, too. And that's important so you don't kill your bullpen. Sidney's going to take the ball, he's going to attack the zone, he's going to work quick."
And the New York relievers picked up where Ponson left off. While the batting order tried to generate run support, the bullpen recorded 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Yankees used six relief pitchers in Saturday's contest, but each one walked off the field after posting a zero on the scoreboard.
"Our pitchers did a nice job of holding them down and giving us an opportunity to come back," Girardi said. "We asked a lot of innings out of them. ... The bullpen just came in and shut the door, and everybody threw the ball well."
The relief corps gave up just one hit to outlast Kansas City's relievers and help the Yankees avoid what would have been a hard loss to swallow. The win snapped a two-game skid and gave New York a chance to win the series in Sunday's finale in the Bronx.
The offensive numbers from Saturday's contest weren't pretty, but as they continue their push for the playoffs during the final stretch of the regular season, the Yankees know they need to take wins however they can get them.
"At this point, it doesn't make a difference how it looks," captain Derek Jeter said. "We need to get wins."