Power surge

A closer look at Yankees OF Brett Gardner:

Gardner's 2014 home runs: 15 in 402 at-bats

Home runs in his previous six seasons combined: 23 in 1,932 at-bats

Home runs since June 1: 11 in 209 at-bats

2014 batting average: .286

Career batting average: .271

Home runs in six minor league seasons: 9 in 1,475 at-bats

Home runs in four seasons at the College of Charleston: 8 in 808 at-bats

2014 slugging percentage (total bases divided by at-bats): .467

Career slugging percentage: .396

Suddenly, Brett Gardner has acquired a new nickname from media members covering the New York Yankees.

"Babe" Gardner.

Yes, the same former College of Charleston bunting specialist. That Brett Gardner.

The Holly Hill native well known for blazing speed and stellar defense. Never power. Until the last few months.

Gardner's home run in the Yankees' 8-7 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday was his 15th of the season - seven more than the total for any of his previous six Major League seasons (eight in 2013).

With so many injuries to the Yankees' pitching staff and other players under-performing, Gardner - the newest Bronx Bomber - is New York's MVP.

"He was hitting the ball hard before but getting outs," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters in New York. "Now he's hitting it out and hitting it down the lines."

For instance, Gardner's two homers last week off Texas ace Yu Darvish in a 4-2 loss to the Rangers.

"I blame the parents of Brett Gardner," Darvish said after the game. "I just blame them for creating a great hitter."

Some players get better the year before they become eligible to snag a bigger contract. Gardner's improvement comes just after he signed a $52 million extension spread over four seasons.

Gardner's explanation?

"(Home runs) are not my game,'' the 30-year-old Summerville resident told the New York Post. "I'm just happy to be able to go out there and repeat my swing and swing at good pitches to hit and not chase too many pitches out of the zone.''

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff