HOUSTON -- Brett Gardner said that he "wasn't sure what to expect" when the bleary-eyed Yankees shuffled into the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park on Friday afternoon, trying to shake off some low-quality sleep and the sight of rookie Dustin Fowler's gruesome knee injury the previous night in Chicago.
It was a much more preferable sight when Gardner launched his third career grand slam, a towering seventh-inning drive to right field that blew open an eventual 13-4 victory over the Astros. As Gardner crossed home plate, he emphatically slammed forearms with Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade and Chris Carter, and laughed.
"I'm too small to hurt somebody, man," said Gardner, whose slam gave the visitors a 10-3 lead. "If I don't, those guys might hurt me. It was a big swing of the bat and a big four runs. It really opened up the game and we pulled away. I knew everybody would be tired, but it turned out to be a great game."
The blast off reliever James Hoyt was Gardner's 15th homer of the year and his first slam since May 12, 2014, off former Mets righty Bartolo Colon. It came as part of a six-RBI performance that tied his career high and also equaled Aaron Hicks for the most RBIs in a game by a Yankee this year.
Nine of the Yankees' 13 runs were scored with two outs, including Gardner's slam, which came off his bat at 104.9 mph and traveled a Statcast-calculated 399 feet.
"You just never give at-bats away. You keep grinding out at-bats," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Guys put a ton of good at-bats and then you get the huge blow from Gardy, the grand slam on 3-2. It looked like a split to me, against a strikeout pitcher. Really good."
Hoyt fell behind Gardner 2-0 before getting him to swing and miss at an 82.5-mph slider. Ball three ran low out of the zone and Gardner whacked two pitches foul before Hoyt placed an 82.3-mph slider over the plate.
Gardner said that he wasn't thinking about hitting a slam in that situation.
"I'm just looking to drive a ball and get a base hit," Gardner said. "We got to 3-2, he threw me a slider and I fouled it off. He threw me another one and left it up and I took a good swing at it. It was just a patient at-bat and I was able to see some pitches; saw a couple of fastballs, saw several breaking balls. He threw me a good pitch to hit and I didn't miss it."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.