Gardner, who entered the game in the fourth inning after Johnny Damon was ejected, hit an inside-the-park homer with two outs in the seventh off Minnesota reliever Jesse Crain to cut the Yankees' deficit to 4-2. It was his second home run of the season.
He finished the night 3-for-3, including a triple to lead off the ninth inning that ultimately sparked New York's game-winning three-run rally.
The inside-the-park homer was the first hit by a Yankee since outfielder Ricky Ledee accomplished the feat on Aug. 29, 1999, against the Mariners.
"It was probably more likely for me to hit an inside-the-parker than it was to hit one over the fence," Gardner said. "I'm glad I could do that for her. I hope she was watching."
After his teammates had struggled against Twins starter Francisco Liriano for six innings, Gardner breathed some much-needed life into the listless Yankees bats, lofting an 0-2 pitch down the left-field line that skipped past Denard Span. The ball bounced around in the corner and Gardner motored around the bases, sliding into home ahead of the relay throw.
The home run was exactly the type of boost the Yankees were looking for. It jolted the crowd for the first time since the start of the game and appeared to propel the rest of the team. Gardner's exciting play woke up an offense that had managed just four hits through the first 6 2/3 innings. The Yankees had five hits in the 2 1/3 innings after the homer.
"It was a big play," manager Joe Girardi said. "If you can just keep pecking away and don't give at-bats away, a lot of times, good things are going to happen, and that's what he did. The ball took kind of a funny bounce on Span, and it was speed against speed, and our guy won out."
Gardner said that he never thought about the possibility of a home run while he was running, and thought Span had a chance to catch it even when he was rounding first base. But he saw the ball hop past Span as he approached second. Gardner ignited the afterburners when he saw third-base coach Rob Thompson waving him home.
Soon after he crossed the plate, he remembered his encounter with the girl at the hospital, and said after the game he will take the bracelet wherever he goes.
"Hopefully, she was watching, [and it] made her smile a little bit," Gardner said. "If not, hopefully, she can see the replay, and it [will make] her happy."