It may not be as famous as the M&M boys, but Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday feature in the latest New York Yankees home run competition.
56 years ago, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle went on a home run hunt for Babe Ruth‘s single-season home run record in New York Yankees history. Maris reached number 61, passed the Great Bambino and defeated Mantle in the race, and it looks like Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday are creating their own competition over a half-century later.
OK, it’s not as serious as the remarkable “Chase For 61,” but the members of the current squad seem to be going head-to-head in a friendly yet competitive home run derby.
Yes, you read that right. Holliday, who has hit 306 home runs in his career, is squaring off against the longest-tenured Yankee, who is well-known for great defense and speed, in a home run chase. It may not be as appealing as Aaron Judge‘s Major League-leading 17 dingers and MVP case, but this storyline sure is peculiar.
“We got a little competition going,” Holliday said following New York’s 8-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night. “It’s kind of sad considering I’m about 50 points heavier and much, much taller.”
In the Yankees’ 30th win of 2017, Gardner and Holliday each went deep twice to move the duo into a tie at 11 homers each. Gardner struck first on Tuesday by jumping on a 2-0 fastball from O’s starter Chris Tillman in the top of the first for his 10th long ball of the season. Holliday followed the leader by crushing his 10th of the year just one batter after Gardner’s moonshot.
Then, the 37-year-old took the lead in the third when Tillman threw him a first-pitch fastball on the inner part of the plate that was turned on for Holliday’s 11th of the year. It wouldn’t take long for Gardner to pull even again, though, as the 5-foot-10 outfielder took reliever Logan Verrett deep in the fourth.
“He kept telling me he was one-upping me,” Gardner said during an on-field interview with the YES Network. “I had to get back even with him. We’re just having a lot of fun.”
Although Gardner got off to a shaky start, seven home runs since May 2 — and 11 over his last 27 games — has him smelling sole possession of the second spot on the team’s home run leaderboard.
Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday are teeing off on the Orioles tonight pic.twitter.com/TGF5w5JVcO
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 31, 2017
“We are right there neck and neck, but he is a big guy in the middle of the order and I don’t know how long I can hang with him but we are just having fun,’’ Gardner said. “I am trying my best to keep up with the big guys.’’
It’s not just Holliday, Gardner or even Judge slugging the ball out of the ballpark as the Bronx Bombers — as a whole — have apparently found the long ball yet again. The team’s 76 home runs through 49 games played are good enough for a tie with the 2002 and 2011 Yankees for the most second-most home runs to open a season.
Tuesday also marked the fifth game in which the Yankees have hit four or more home runs this year. That ties the 2011 team for the most to start a season in franchise history and pulls them one closer to the total games in which the Yankees hit four home runs in 2016. If Gardner and Holliday maintain their muscle contest, reaching franchise marks for home runs can not only be an attainable feat but a downright entertaining one as well.