Much will be made of the Yankees’ terrific victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game after the All-Star Break. There was the somber aspect of the first game since Steinbrenner’s death. There were the dramatic back-to-back shots from Robbie Cano and Jorge Posada to tie the game in the 6th. There were the heroic hits from Nick Swisher–first, the game-tying dinger to lead off the 8th and then the game-winning single in the 9th.
But the play that stands out for me is a single with nobody out from a guy who went 1-4 on the night. I’m referring to the lead off single by Curtis Granderson to start the 9th inning. Facing the former Yankee, lefty Randy Choate, Granderson initiated the game-winning rally with an unassuming single to right field. Wait, let me repeat that for emphasis.
Granderson got a hit off a lefty.
Count me in the camp that wasn’t overly concerned by Granderson’s righty/lefty splits heading into 2010. After all, he hit 30 home runs last year, playing half his games in spacious Comerica Park. As a lefty in Yankee Stadium, I figured he could hit 40. His BA against lefties was .259 in 2008; surely his .210 avg vs. lefties in 2009 was an outlier. Kevin Long would perform his magic, and Curtis Granderson would be yet another Yankee superstar.
Except it didn’t happen like that. Curtis Granderson has seemed wildly over matched by left-handed pitchers all season long. Heading into tonight’s game, he was batting a paltry .207 with lefties on the mound, to go along with an OBP and SLG of .250 and .287, respectively. With a meager .537 OPS vs. lefties, Granderson has been matched up against the left-handed specialists from opposing teams in every late-inning pressure situation. He’s been effectively shut down time after time.
Randy Choate came into tonight’s game with devastating numbers against lefties. Before Curtis slapped his single, lefties were hitting .162 against him with 3 walks and 22 strikeouts in 19 innings. Curtis was perhaps the most unlikely candidate to put a dent into those numbers. But he did it.
Is this the start of something big for Curtis Granderson? Well, his inability to hit lefties has been the one knock on Granderson’s talents from the day he became a big-league player. I don’t think anyone is expecting Granderson to start destroying left-handed pitching. But hitting .250 would at least prevent him from becoming a glorified platoon player. If the Yanks are going to reach their full potential, they need that from Curtis.
From the FanTake blog: Mr. Blogtober
Follow on Twitter: @Mr_Blogtober