Despite all that and Mark Teixeira's two-run homer in his return to the starting lineup, the Yankees sweated it out until the very end, before Gardner caught a flyball near the warning track in left field with the bases loaded for a 12-11 victory at Texas. New York overcame a seven-RBI game by J.P. Arencibia on Tuesday night.
"It was a strange game, but it was great to get out of here with a win," manager Joe Girardi said. "It would have been a bad one to lose."
The Yankees never trailed after Gardner reached base twice in a seven-run sixth inning. They led 10-4 before Arencibia, already with two doubles and a solo homer, hit a grand slam in the seventh.
Texas scored twice off closer David Robertson, the fifth Yankees pitcher, and had the bases loaded in the ninth after Elvis Andrus hit a two-run single. Adrian Beltre then hit a towering flyball that finally ended the game after 3 hours, 51 minutes.
"It was about as bad as you can suck and still get one of the better hitters in the game out and not lose the ballgame," said Robertson, who got his 27th save in 29 chances.
Noted Texas manager Ron Washington, "If you look into that sixth inning, I don't think there were many people that thought we had a chance. But we never quit, and we were one swing away with the right guy at the plate."
Arencibia struck out to start the ninth but still became the first Texas player with four extra-base hits since Josh Hamilton's four-homer game at Baltimore on May 8, 2012. The latest player in the majors with at least seven RBIs in a loss was Jonathan Lucroy in 2012, when Milwaukee fell to the Cubs.
"Not enough," Arencibia said when asked to describe his game.
Brandon McCarthy (3-0) pitched six innings for the Yankees, who have won all four of his starts since he was acquired July 6 in a trade with Arizona. Teixeira, in his first start in nine games after a back strain, homered in the eighth to make it 12-8. He also walked three times and scored two other runs. Gardner, who went deep twice Monday off Yu Darvish, led off against rookie Nick Martinez (1-7) with his 13th homer. He added his second double to start the sixth and scored the first run in that rally.
"He was hitting the ball hard before but getting outs," Girardi said. "Now he's hitting it out and hitting it down the lines."
Gardner had a running, sliding catch on a ball Shin-Soo Choo sliced into the left-field corner to lead off the third.
I GOT IT -- NOT
The final run in the Yankees' sixth scored after Gardner's flyball into the right-center field ended up a three-base error. Right fielder Alex Rios was calling for the ball when he reached for it, but he closed his glove too soon. The ball ricocheted off the back of his glove and then off the head of center fielder Leonys Martin, who was also in pursuit. Martin said he never heard Rios calling for it.
Derek Jeter was initially called out in the sixth after his chopper was deflected by Martinez and led to a barehanded grab and throw by Andrus. Girardi challenged, and replay showed Jeter was safe for his second hit of the game and 3,422nd of his career.
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (shoulder), out since early May, threw 45 pitches in a bullpen session and is set to start an injury rehab assignment Sunday. Infielder Kelly Johnson (strained left groin) is expected to be ready to play when eligible to come off the DL on Aug. 7.
Rangers: Nick Tepesch pulled himself out of his latest start Saturday night because of left knee soreness, and Texas will skip his next turn in the rotation Friday as a precaution. Jerome Williams starts Friday at Cleveland.
Yankees RHP Hiroki Kuroda, 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA in five career starts against Texas, pitches against Colby Lewis in the rubber game of the three-game set. The Rangers will try to end a string of seven consecutive series losses dating to June 27-29, when they won two of three against Minnesota. That is also their most recent instance of back-to-back victories.