YANKEES 7, TWINS 6
When he stepped to the plate in the first inning on Thursday, Curtis Granderson was hitting .208 with three home runs and six RBIs and the fans at Yankee Stadium were wondering if he was headed for a fall after his magical 2011 season.
Three hours later, Granderson was walking off to a loud ovation after going 5-for-5 with three home runs and four RBIs as he led New York to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Minnesota to salvage a split of the four-game series.
With the Yankees trailing 4-0 in the first, Granderson hit the first of his three home runs into the right-center stands beyond the bullpen off Twins starter Anthony Swarzak (0-3). Mark Teixeira added a two-run, two-out home run – his first of the season – in virtually the same spot Granderson hit his to bring the Yankees to within a run at 4-3, just as the Yankees had done in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss.
However, unlike Wednesday night, the Yankees claimed the lead in the second inning starting with a two-out double by Eduardo Nunez, whose error in the first inning led to four unearned runs being scored off Yankees starter Phil Hughes (1-2).
Derek Jeter, who is off to the best start of his major-league career, followed with a slashing single to right to score Nunez. That hit gave him 3,11o hits in his career and tied him for 18th place on the all-time hit list with his boyhood idol Dave Winfield.
Granderson then stepped to the plate and he planted a 3-1 Swarzak fastball into the second deck in the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees a lead they never would relinquish.
Granderson made it 7-4 with his third round-tripper of the night with one out in the fourth inning off reliever Jeff Gray. It was a lined shot three rows back in right-field. Most of the 40,327 fans in attendance came to their feet and exhorted Granderson to a take a curtain call, which he did.
The 31-year-old center-fielder added a one-out single to right in the sixth inning off Alex Burnett and a two-out infield single off Glen Perkins in the ninth to become the first Yankee player in history to have a 5-for-5 game with three home runs.
With the three home runs, Granderson became the first Yankee player to hit three in a game at the new Yankee Stadium.
Hughes did not pitch his best but he did survive a nightmarish first inning in which Nunez threw high and up the first-base line on a routine grounder off the bat of Joe Mauer after Jamey Carroll slapped a one-out single. That led later to a base-loaded single by Ryan Doumit and a two-run double by Danny Valencia.
Hughes actually pitched well after that until Doumit blasted a 1-0 change-up into the right-centerfield bleachers for a two-run home run that brought the Twins to within a run at 7-6.
But, as they have done all season, the bullpen of Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera did not allow a run in the last 3 2/3 innings to provide a much-needed victory to the Yankees in advance of their six-game road trip to Boston and Texas before coming home to play three games against Detroit.
Rivera needed only seven pitches to notch his third save of the season.
With the victory the Yankees are now 7-6 on the season. The Twins dropped to 4-9.
- Seeing Granderson come alive at the plate on Thursday was pure magic to watch. Granderson’s three home runs put him in the lead in the American League in that category. His 5-for-5 night raised his batting average from .208 to .283. The last Yankee to hit three home runs in a game was Alex Rodriguez on Aug. 14, 2010 against the Royals in Kansas City.
- Jeter was 1-for-5 with a runs scored and an RBI and it was considered an off night. He has been that hot. Jeter was robbed of a single in the first inning on a diving stop by Carroll at shortstop and he laced a line drive to right in the fourth that was hit right at Doumit. In his two other at-bats he bounced out to the pitcher. OK, so he is human.
- Despite not pitching since April 11, Rivera looked very sharp in recording a well-earned save. Carroll, Mauer and Josh Willingham failed to get a ball out the infield. The bullpen entered play with a 1.99 ERA on the season and that is the best mark in baseball.
- Teixeira is showing signs of life with the bat for once in April. Since April 15, he is 8-for-17 (.471) with a home run and four RBIs. He is now hitting .286 and that is encouraging for Yankee fans who are accustomed to watching Tex struggle through April for the past three seasons.
- I now have the perfect nickname for Nunez: Eduardo Scissorhands. When you see him make careless errors in the field it makes you wonder what would happen if he played every day. Manager Joe Girardi opted to DH Robinson Cano and use Nunez at second base and it cost the Yankees four runs in the first inning. Nunez looks to be stiff and unsure of himself in the field and I just don’t know why because he is a great athlete.
- Hughes is still a work in progress. He gave up six runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks and he fanned four in 5 1/3 innings. But, look at it this way: He was two outs away from what is considered a quality start and minus the Doumit two-run homer we would be singing his praises for not giving up any earned runs.
- It is official: Russell Martin is in a full-blown funk at the plate and it seems to be getting worse. He was 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, including hitting into a 1-4-3 double play with two on and one out in the seventh inning. Martin is hitting an anemic .133 with no home runs and one RBI.
The Yankees are very happy to playing in Boston on Friday as part of the 100th birthday for Fenway Park. As part of the festivities, the Yankees and Red Sox will don throwback uniforms without numbers to commemorate the event on Friday. The players feel it is only fitting that the Red Sox play their longtime rivals on the special occasion.
Well, it is Red Sox versus Yankees on Friday on Fenway’s 100th birthday. How perfect!
The Yankees are scheduled to start right-hander Ivan Nova (2-0, 4.50 ERA). Nova has won 14 consecutive decisions dating back to his rookie season in 2011. In his last start against the Angels on Sunday he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks and fanned eight batters in six innings in an 11-5 thrashing on ESPN. He is 0-2 with a 6.62 ERA in his career against the Bosox.
Boston will counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-0, 9.00 ERA). Buchholz went seven subpar innings with a high pitch count in his last start. He is 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA lifetime against the Bombers.
Game-time will be 3:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.