Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grandy Trifecta Bails Out Hughes

When Curtis Granderson was struggling during the 2010 season, my Dad kept telling me how awful he was;what a mistake the trade had been. My brother and I kept telling him, just wait, this guy is a legitimate star. While we weren't the reason, we were right.

Granderson's bat was sluggish that season until he worked hard with hitting coach Kevin Long to make adjustments. Granderson got hot down the stretch and exploded last year with an MVP type year- 41 HRs, a .916 OPS, 26 doubles, 10 triples, and a league lead 119 RBI and 136 runs scored. The left-handed hitting Granderson was a notoriously poor hitter against southpaws, but actually hit better against left-handers than righties in 2011 (.940 OPS 16 HR in 191 AB).

Thursday night Granderson had the first three home run game of his career. Down 4-0 in the first after some shaky pitching from Phil Hughes and a costly error by Eduardo Nunez, Granderson started the Yankees hit parade with a solo home run in the bottom of the 1st off of lefty Anthony Swarzak. He took the Twins starter deep again an inning later, this time with a man aboard to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead.

In the 4th, Granderson's home run, his 6th of the year, proved to be the difference maker in the Yankees 7-6 victory. This time the victim was Twins' right-handed reliever Jeff Gray.

By the time Granderson stepped up to the plate again in the 6th, many people were no longer thinking about another rough start for Hughes. The right-hander hadn't made it out of the 5th inning in his first two starts and, for a time, didn't look like he would get out of the 1st inning Thursday evening. Granted his pitch count rose quickly in the first frame due to Nunez's throwing error from 2nd base.

Playing in place of Robinson Cano, who started at DH, Nunez fielded Joe Mauer's grounder with one out and one on and lollipopped his throw to 1st base. Mark Teixeira leapt up to grab the errant throw, but couldn't get a tag on Mauer. The Twins took advantage when Ryan Doumit stroked a 2-run single and Danny Valencia added a 2-run double.

Hughes got better as the game went on, but he walked Justin Morneau to start the 6th inning and then surrendered a 2-run home run to Doumit to end his night. But the Yankees bullpen was sharp. Boone Logan finished the 6th and was followed by the usual sequence of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera. The Yankees closer picked up his third save of the season to salvage a split of the four game series and put the Yankees back above .500 at 7-6.

The story line though was Granderson, who stepped up to the plate in the 6th against Alex Burnett and ripped a hard single to right. Nunez, who was on 2nd base, had to hold up to be sure the ball wasn't caught and had to stop at third. In the 8th, Granderson got one more chance to join the four-home run club, but hit a dribbler. The good news is that he beat the throw to first for a 5-5 night that raised his batting average 75 points.

The Captain Climbs The Ladder

Derek Jeter had just one hit on the night, and RBI single in the 2nd, but it was the 3,110th of his career. That was good enough to tie him with his idol Dave Winfield for 19th on the all-time hits list. Jeter needs 31 hits to catch Tony Gwynn for 18th place.

The Last Trifecta
According to the YES Network, August 14, 2010 was the last time a Yankee hit three home runs in one game. That was courtesy of Alex Rodriguez in KC.

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