Taking hacks against two right-handers left off the postseason roster hardly seemed like fair preparation for facing Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Tuesday night, but given the Yankees' circumstances, they were willing to take their chances.
"Freddy maybe is not necessarily going to get you ready to face Verlander, but Nova has got a good arm," Gardner said after the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. "If there's one guy you could pick to get ready for Verlander off our team, I'd say Nova would probably be the guy."
The move, bold as it may have been on manager Joe Girardi's part, didn't pay off in the Yankees' favor. Gardner went hitless in Verlander's dominant 8 1/3-innings effort, jumping at four changeups for three groundouts and a popout.
"I didn't see his changeup too well," Gardner said. "He did a good job of pounding the zone and getting ahead, for the most part. He threw me some changeups in counts where I didn't expect a changeup. You've got to be geared up to hit 98 [mph], and when he throws you an 86-mph changeup, you're going to be in front of it."
Limited to just four at-bats in game action since April 17 due to a right elbow strain and subsequent July arthroscopic surgery, Gardner has had some regular-season success against Verlander, owning a 3-for-8 (.375) lifetime track record.
"Obviously, we think Gardy is one of the best leadoff guys in the game when he's healthy and has had a chance to play," general manager Brian Cashman said before the game. "He's healthy now. He's going to get a chance to play. With all due respect, he can't really give us any less than what we've gotten. So why not? We'll try it."
Girardi would not tip his hand if he planned to start Gardner again on Wednesday in Game 4, with the Yankees facing elimination and up against right-hander Max Scherzer. Nick Swisher, whom Gardner effectively replaced in the outfield, with Ichiro Suzuki shifting to right field, said that he expects to be in the lineup.
"You want to be in there, but skip is the manager, and I back his decision," Swisher said. "You bring a little speed in the lineup with Gardy coming in there. I'm going to come back to the ballpark and be ready to go."