Key triple proves Granderson's progress
Left-handed hitter's two-run drive comes off tough southpaw
MINNEAPOLIS -- Of the legions insisting that Curtis Granderson could not hit lefties, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was a lonely dissenter. Not only did Girardi believe that Granderson could hit lefties, but he believed it so firmly and so completely that he started Granderson in center field for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against one of the best left-handers in the game: Twins starter Francisco Liriano.
And all Granderson did was whack a two-run triple off Target Field's center-field wall, chasing Liriano and vindicating his manager in what became a 6-4 victory over the Twins.
"It shows you the type of talent that he has and his willingness to try to get better," Girardi said. "I've been impressed by Grandy and his determination."
Granderson's was not the game-winning hit, because the Twins later came back to tie things. But his was the most damaging hit off Liriano, the one that made the Twins pause, the one that gave the Yankees their first lead of the postseason and allowed them to lean on the Twins until they cracked.
With two outs and Liriano clinging to a one-run lead in the sixth, Granderson drilled a 2-1 pitch off the wall in center field, out of the reach of Denard Span. Two runs came around to score, and the Yankees took their first lead -- which, as it turned out, wasn't the only lead they'd need.
"It was just a matter of being in the position to hit the baseball," Granderson said, "and getting a pitch to hit."
Put that way, it all sounds so simple. But it was never a sure thing that Granderson was even going to be in such a position to hit.
Had Girardi wanted to, he easily could have justified benching his starting center fielder for Game 1 of the ALDS. In his first season with the Yankees, after all, Granderson was nothing short of miserable against lefties, batting .234 with just 10 extra-base hits in 158 at-bats. He slugged .354. He reached base at a .292 clip.
All of which are easy ways to say he wasn't very good.
Granderson's inability to hit left-handers was the most significant question surrounding the Yankees' new acquisition in Spring Training, one that followed him into April, May and even October. Then there was the matter of Liriano, a dominant left-hander who had previously held Granderson to four hits in 22 career at-bats. Twelve of those meetings ended in strikeouts.
But Girardi, seeing better at-bats from Granderson in recent weeks, decided to give him a crack at the lefty. And it worked.
"I always felt confident against him, but he is arguably one of the best guys," Granderson said. "It seems like all the times before, he did a great job of not giving me too much to hit -- and when he did, I wasn't able to do much with it. So it was a mixture of all those things working in the reverse this time."
Now, Granderson has a more positive track record against Liriano, which could help him earn starts later this postseason against Twins lefty Brian Duensing or, if the Yankees advance, Rangers left-hander Cliff Lee or Rays lefty David Price.
"It wasn't a confidence thing," Granderson said of his previous inability to hit same-sided pitchers. "It wasn't even the matter of not getting hits. It was the fact that I wasn't allowing myself to be able to put the ball in play to give myself the best chance possible to get a hit."