It’s hard to believe — I could have sworn it had happened before — but Curtis Granderson had never been pushed out of the dugout for a curtain call until his three home run performance in Thursday’s 7-6 win over the Minnesota Twins.
“When I got to the dugout, I think CC told me to go out there and acknowledge the crowd,” Granderson said. “I’ve never done that before. I’ve seen a lot of guys do it, but to actually get an opportunity to do it puts in perspective what you just accomplished.”
Granderson stole the show to help the Yankees salvage a split with the Twins before they head to Boston for their big series with the Red Sox. Phil Hughes had a rough first inning, but Granderson hit all three of his home runs by the fourth inning, becoming the first player to hit three in one game in the new Yankee Stadium.
“What he did today is a special day, and they don’t happen very often,” Joe Girardi said. “He should cherish it, and it’s fun to watch as a manager.”
Granderson’s first home run was a solo shot in the bottom of first that got the Yankees on the board after the Twins had scored four runs in the top of the inning. His second was a two-run shot in the second inning that broke a tie to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead. And his third came in the fourth on a solo shot to extend the lead to 7-4. All three went out to RF, where the short porch has transformed Granderson into one of the biggest power threats in the majors.
“I didn’t know that until you said it, but that’s kind of neat,” Granderson said when informed that he was the first to hit three in the new Yankee Stadium. “Especially with the guys that have played here, with Alex and Robinson and Tex and Swish, those guys seem to put on a show every time they get a chance to play here. I’m very surprised that those guys hadn’t done it yet, but I’m sure I wont be the last.”
• Reggie Jackson was in the house, and said that Granderson’s performance reminded him of his three home run outburst in the 1977 World Series. “Anytime somebody hits three, it does,” he said. “It’s nice to see it happen here for one of our guys, and we win.”
• Let’s put this into historical perspective: Granderson is the first player to ever hit three in the new Yankee Stadium, and first Yankee to hit three in a game since A-Rod at Kansas City on 08/14/10. He is the first Yankee to do so in a home game since A-Rod against the Angels on 04/26/05. This was the 28th time that a Yankee has hit three in a game, and Granderson is the 20th Yankee to do it.
• Girardi talked about what makes Granderson so special: “Curtis brings a smile every day,” he said. “He’s as prepared of a player as any, and seems to bring a lot of energy to his game. He plays defense, plays offense, he’s a complete player. That’s what everyone looks for. You look for a complete player, and we’ve got him.”
• Girardi also talked about why his swing is so perfect for this ballpark: “I think that was one of the reasons that Brian went out and got him, is because he is a pull hitter,” Girardi said. “He’s in a sense built for this ballpark. He can hit the ball in the air and hit it a long way. Pull hitters a lot of the time do very well here… He was just a real good fit.”
• Granderson acknowledged that the ballpark has helped his HR numbers, but said he never goes up thinking about the short porch in RF. “I never go up there trying got pull unless the situation dictates it,” he said. “I end up pulling the ball a lot of the time, but not by design. Having that (short porch) over there helps out, but it also takes away some things. I like hitting triples and you don’t see me getting a lot over there because there’s not a lot of foul territory. So you take the pros with the cons.”
• Granderson also said that he did some extra work with Kevin Long prior to game because he hadn’t been feeling great at the plate. “A lot of work went into today before I actually stepped on the field,” he said. “I had some big issues with timing since the season started, so Kevin Long and I were out there just trying to get timing and rhythm. Pitchers are out there just trying to disrupt your rhythm and disrupt your timing. I was struggling to get myself into a good position to do things when I wanted to.”
• Granderson’s big day overshadowed Hughes, who turned what could have been a disastrous start into a decent outing. He should have gotten out of the first inning unscathed, but an error from Eduardo Nunez ending up costing him four unearned runs. Joe Mauer reached on Nunez’s throwing error with out out, and after Hughes struck out Josh Willingham for the second out, he gave up back-to-back two-run RBI hits. Girardi’s shift against Ryan Doumit backfired when he poked a ball through the vacated hole at shortstop, but then Hughes gave up a hard-hit double to Danny Valencia to give the Twins a 4-0 lead. “That’s baseball,” Hughes said. “I make a ton of mistakes out there, and the fielders are going to make mistakes too. It’s part of the game… When I look back at the first tinning, the big mistake was hanging a slider to Valencia. The base hit that got through on the left side, you kind of say, alright I can live with that, but let’s stop it here.”
• Hughes continuously praised the offense for saving his butt (although he didn’t quite phrase it like that), but he did have a pretty good stretch from the second through the fifth inning, when he allowed only two baserunners. This start could have turned out much different without Nunez’s error, but Hughes still gutted out 5.1 innings and didn’t fold when it looked like things could go downhill quickly. “I felt like my stuff was good,” he said. “Fastball was pretty good, and my curveball was probably the best that its been in a while. There’s some encouraging things. It’s far from a good outing, but still some positives that I can look at.”
• Hughes gave up a two-run homer to Doumit in the sixth for his only earned runs of the game. “I had a changeup that hung out over the plate a little bit,” he said. “That was kind fo a tough one to live with, but the bullpen did a great job again and we were able to hold on.”
• Here’s Girardi on Hughes: “Sometimes you get behind like that and it’s tough,” he said. “Part of it was his doing, and part of it wasn’t. Our guys gave us a lift by getting some runs in the bottom of the inning to get us back in it, and he went out shut the door and gave us a chance to get the lead.”
• Nunez continues to be an adventure in the field, but Girardi plans to keep running him out there. If they can get him to settle down in the field, he’s shown that he can be productive at the plate. He’s definitely got some talent, but you can’t anoint him the shortstop of the future unless he cleans up his sloppy defense. “I look at that, and if you want to call it mental or want to call it physical, the bottom line is that he didn’t move his feet,” Girardi said. “I talked to him about moving his feet, and he threw every ball chest high after that. Every time he moves around (to a different position), it’s a different throw for him, and this is a young kid. This is not a guy that’s been doing this for 10 years. This is a guy that was an everyday shortstop asked to be a utility guy and play an important role for us. … I really believe he’ll continue to get better at it. Last year, he made some errors early on and he kind of settled down after he played more.”
• Once again, the bullpen was spectacular. Bullpens can be so unpredictable from year to year, but last season’s success seems to have carried over into this year. Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera combined for 3.2 scoreless innings. “We have quality arms down there,” Girardi said. “They’ve been through this a lot. A lot of them have been around for a while, and been in some tough situations. Robby kind of burst onto the scene against Minnesota awhile ago in the playoffs – that’s where he made a name for himself. Booney has been throwing the ball great, Soriano has been around for awhile, so we’ve got good arms down there.”
• Mark Teixeira hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the first. “I just see him swinging the bat, and swinging it real well,” Girardi said. “Maybe the day off helped him, he was really run down, and he was fighting it… Unless he can’t walk, he’s going to try to play. I think he’s got his energy back.”
• Girardi also talked about Russell Martin, who is now hitting .133. “We had to make a little adjustment,” Girardi said. “Mechanically, he was a little off. It might take him a few days to get going… I think his swings have been better. I know the production hasn’t been there, but he’ll get better.”
Associated Press photos