October 9, 2020 | 3:08am
Moving the sizzling Giancarlo Stanton up a notch from fifth to fourth in his Game 4 lineup wasn’t the only change Aaron Boone made from the Yankees’ Game 3 loss.
Brett Gardner went from eighth to sixth against right-hander Ryan Thompson, the Rays’ opener. Gio Urshela, who had two hits in 12 ALDS at-bats, dropped from sixth to eighth. Gardner was 2-for-6 in two ALDS appearances and batting .357 (5-for-14) in the postseason. Urshela was 5-for-21 (.238) in five postseason games.
“With Gardy moving up, obviously I love Gio hitting anywhere in the order from third, fifth, fourth, whatever. He is going to give you quality at-bats and usually comes up with clutch at-bats,’’ Boone said. “But [Thursday] with them going with the opener and you know how they will use their right and left-handed split guys, just creating a little bit of a split in our lineup with our two lefties giving us a little more balance there.’’
The move worked since Gardner went 2-for-3 and scored two runs in the Yankees’ 5-1 win that forced a winner-take-all Game 5 on Friday night at Petco Park in San Diego.
The switch-hitting Aaron Hicks (1-for-5) and Gardner were the only hitters in the Yankees’ starting lineup swinging from the left side against Thompson.
Despite the right-handed hitting Luke Voit having one hit in 11 ALDs at-bats, Boone wasn’t ready to shoehorn lefty-swinging Mike Ford into the lineup at first base. Infielder Tyler Wade hits from the left side but he wasn’t an option to start at second, third or short. Voit crushed a 453-foot homer for the game’s first run in the second inning.
Asked about a lack of balance in the lineup, Boone said his preference is to have good hitters over a balanced lineup.
“In a perfect world you would have this perfect balance, but I would rather have our hitters than just the sake of balance,’’ said Boone, who batted Hicks third. “Throughout the year I have tried to have three lefties in there at three, six, nine. In this case two. You do try to balance it out, especially when you know another team is trying to take advantage of some of their situational guys who are real good against righties or real good against lefties. Where you can you try to break that up a little bit, but when we are going well no matter who we are facing I feel we are the best offense in the game.’’
Boone didn’t gather his players for a talk before Game 4 of the ALDS on Thursday night. Instead, he dealt with them one-on-one.
“I talked to individuals but nothing that I will say as a group to the guys,’’ Boone explained.
After throwing 27 pitches in one inning of Game 2 on Wednesday night, Deivi Garcia was in the bullpen for Game 4 on Thursday.
“[Garcia] is down there for innings if we need it,’’ Boone said of the 21-year-old right-hander who wasn’t needed, but might be in Friday’s Game 5.
Garcia also figures to compete for a rotation spot next year when it is possible J.A. Happ, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka leave via free agency.
Hicks has reached base in 13 of 29 postseason plate appearances and is hitting .318 (7-for-22) in six games.
DJ LeMahieu went 2-for-4 and takes a 12-game hitting streak into Game 5. He has hit safely in 24 consecutive games against the Rays (regular and postseason), which is the longest current streak against a single opponent by an active player in the big leagues.