One of the knocks on Brett Gardner in the first quarter of this season is that the Yankees' fastest runner has been a bit slow pulling the trigger in steal situations.
And yet, in the bottom of the ninth inning of Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Gardner single-handedly put himself 90 feet from tying the game, and put the Yankees in the favorable position of having their best hitter, Robinson Cano, at the plate to drive him in.
The fact that it didn't get done? Don't blame Gardner.
The Yankees center fielder had a tough night at the plate, going hitless in his first four at-bats, including two strikeouts -- he now has 40 Ks in his first 157 at-bats and is on pace to strike out a career-high 160 times -- but he singled sharply with one out in the ninth off Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, and with Jayson Nix batting, stole second and third to run his total for the season to nine steals in 12 attempts.
Nix struck out but Cano came to the plate needing just to dump the ball into the outfield to tie the game. However, after fouling off four straight pitches form Wilhelmsen, Cano rapped out to shortstop to end the game.
Afterward, Gardner was asked if he considered trying to steal home. "No, I wasn't able to do that tonight," he said, explaining that had Wilhelmsen, a right-hander, been a lefty and working from the windup, he might have given it a try, but with Cano at bat, there was no point in attempting something that was likely to fail.
"I just tried to get over in scoring position for those guys and we came up a little bit short," he said.
Gardner said he had stolen home a couple of times in his baseball life, although not since college. "Under the right circumstances, I might try it," he said. "But not tonight."