YANKEES 7, TIGERS 0
After being outscored 16-7 and outhit 26-12 in the first two games and having to face the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in Sunday’s series finale, the Yankees countered that by throwing a former Cy Young Award winner of their own. The result was the polar opposite of what happened in the first two games.
CC Sabathia shut out the Tigers on just four hits in seven innings to outduel Justin Verlander and the Yankees busted loose for seven runs and 13 hits as New York salvaged the third game of the series to whitewash Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 39,829 at Comerica Park.
Sabathia (1-1) put the controversy surrounding the reduced velocity on his pitches by showing excellent command of his fastball and changeup to prevent any Tiger baserunner to get past second base. Sabathia also improved his career record against the Tigers to 19-12.
Meanwhile, Sabathia received some welcome run support from a pair of unlikely run producers in the second inning.
Picking on a less-than-sharp Verlander (1-1) with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on first, Francisco Cervelli laced a line-drive double to the wall in left-center to score Suzuki with the game’s first run. One out later, Jayson Nix, who was subbing at shortstop for Eduardo Nunez, who was subbing for Derek Jeter, cranked a fat changeup into the first row of bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.
It was a lead that Sabathia refused to relinquish to a deep power-laden lineup that had destroyed the Yankees the past two games.
Sabathia ended his afternoon having walked three and striking out four. It was hardly a dominant outing but it did best Verlander, who left after 7 1/3 innings having surrendered seven hits and two walks while striking out four.
The Yankees then added a pair of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings off left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Octavio Dotel, respectively.
Suzuki touched Coke with a run-scoring fly ball in the eighth and Cervelli followed with a lined RBI single to center.
Red-hot Kevin Youkilis capped the scoring with one out in the ninth off Dotel by lacing a two-run single.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and Mariano Rivera tossed a scoreless ninth to allow the Yankees to complete the shutout of the Tigers and salvage the series finale.
The Yankees’ season record improves to 2-4. The Tigers fell to 3-3.
- Sabathia hovered mostly in the 88-91 mile-per-hour range on Sunday but it was good enough to keep the Tigers at bay. The Tigers 3, 4 and 5 hitters – Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez – were a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts off Sabathia. More importantly Sabathia quieted the critics who ripped him after his Opening Day loss to the Boston Red Sox.
- Nix entered the game 0-for-7 with five strikeouts but he broke out of it in a big way against Verlander and Dotel. He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Nix was pleased because he has not had much success against Verlander in the past. “It’s great. It feels really good,” Nix said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of success off him. He is who he is, you know?”
- With Nix batting ninth, Cervelli held up his end batting seventh. He was 2-for-4 with two big RBIs. That raised Cervelli’s early-season batting average to .308.
Every starter had at least one hit except Lyle Overbay (0-for-4), Sabathia pitched with great precision to shut down a powerful lineup and the team did not commit an error in the field. That is a reason not to dwell on any negatives in what has been a rough week for the team.
Nunez was unable to get back into the starting lineup on Sunday but he was able to pinch-run for Travis Hafner in the eighth inning and he scored a run. Nunez has been hampered the past two games because of a bruised right bicep he sustained when he was hit by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister on Friday. Nunez tried to swing a bat and throw on Sunday but his right arm was still sore. He is still listed as day-to-day. . . . Most experts figured the Yankees would not succeed with a bunch of aging newcomers and journeymen starting or filling in for injured starters. But Youkilis, Hafner, Overbay, Vernon Wells, Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch were a combined 22-for-75 (.293) with four homers and 12 RBIs in the Yankees’ first five games.
The Yankees boarded a flight for Cleveland late Sunday and will open a three-game series against the Indians on Monday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (0-1, 13.50 ERA) recovered from a bruised right middle finger he suffered in the second inning of his first start against the Bosox on Wednesday and will pitch for the Yankees. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his two career starts against the Indians.
The Indians will counter with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 1.50 ERA). Jimenez allowed one run on three hits, walked two and struck six in six innings in his season debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday. He is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 12, TIGERS 8
Sometimes a victory can be as majestic and beautiful as a priceless painting and sometimes they can look like a 5-year-old child’s refrigerator drawing. The New York Yankees victory on Wednesday at Comerica Park looked more like the latter to manager Joe Girardi but he will cherish it all the same.
Fueled by a home run and four RBIs from Curtis Granderson and with CC Sabathia on a the mound nursing a 7-0 cushion, New York ended up having to fight their rear ends off in the final three innings to gain a huge win over Detroit.
Sabathia (12-3) was coasting with a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning when the Tigers pushed across two runs on a one-out single by Jeff Baker. After the Yankees added a run in the top of the seventh on an Ichiro Suzuki infield single, the Tigers then used a fielding error by third baseman Casey McGehee in the seventh to score another run on a Prince Fielder groundout to pull within 8-4 when Sabathia was removed in favor of David Robertson.
Robertson then suffered through one of those “House of Horrors” moments coming in with two out and a runner on second base.
A Delmon Young grounder that was headed to Robinson Cano for what could have been the final out was cut off by first baseman Mark Teixeira and it rolled off his glove for a infield single. Pinch-hitter Andy Dirks was fooled so badly on a 1-1 pitch he swung late and rolled a single just inside the third base bag and into left to drive in a run.
Robertson then had Brennan Boesch in a 2-2 hole when he swung at a pitch off the plate and bounced it slowly to McGehee for a single that scored another run. Pinch-hitter Alex Avila then rolled another ball past third to bring the Tigers to within a run at 8-7 before Robertson retired Ramon Santiago to end the rally.
Because of the four-run frame, Sabathia was charged with five runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk while he struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings. Robertson, though none of the four singles he gave up would have broken a pane of glass, was charged with three runs on five hits in one inning of relief.
The Yankees, however, had just about enough of the Tigers in the eighth and they jumped on former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke for a pair of one-out runs on a Teixeira RBI single and an RBI groundout off the bat of Eric Chavez, who is 7-for-12 (.583) in the series.
They added another pair of runs with two out in the ninth off Bryan Villarreal on a balk with Jayson Nix on third and an RBI single off the bat of Cano. Those two runs pretty much declawed the Tigers before the bottom of the inning as Rafael Soriano retired the side in order, striking out two, to give the Yankees the victory.
Granderson, who was dropped to the No. 6 spot in the batting order after going 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series, slapped a two-out RBI single as part of a two-run first inning and he added a three-run home run in the third off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (6-9).
Sanchez and a vengeful Tigers manager Jim Leyland paid the price for their anger dearly in that third inning after Sanchez had hit Teixeira with a pitch in the first inning and Sabathia reciprocated by hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch in the bottom of the stanza.
With one out in the third Sanchez plunked Cano in the backside in what clearly was a purpose pitch. Home-plate umpire Tim Welke warned both benches against any further incidents. But Leyland may want to reconsider that strategy now since it worked to the detriment of his team.
Cano stole second and, one out later, Chavez drew a walk to set the stage for the former Tiger, Granderson. He launched a weak fluttering 0-1 change-up from Sanchez deep into the seats in right to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead.
The Yankees finally chased Sanchez in the fourth after an RBI single by Nick Swisher and Teixeira made it 7-0 on a sacrifice fly off reliever Duane Below.
Sanchez, who entered the game with a 3.99 ERA, was charged with seven runs on seven hits and two walks and struck out two in three-plus innings.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 64-46 and they remain 4 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Tigers fell to 60-51 and their 10-game home winning streak is, like Sanchez, history.
- Granderson has pretty much been a vexing problem this season. He goes into stretches where he swings at every off-speed pitch in the dirt and a foot outside. Then there are times he goes 3-for-5, including a double and a home run, he scores two runs and drives in four. Granderson has 30 home runs and 66 RBIs this season but he is hitting .244 and has struck out 136 times, the third most in the majors behind Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena.
- Chavez is making the most of his increased playing time in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. Since July 30, Chavez is 12-for-26 (.462) with three home runs and eight RBIs. On the season, Chavez is now hitting .284 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. Alex who?
- Girardi might have panicked a bit by pulling Sabathia in the seventh in favor of Roberrson. Sabathia actually was pitching pretty well at that point and he had thrown only 94 pitches. But because the Yankees have struggled this month, Girardi made the move to Roberrtson and what happened to him was borderline unfair. But Sabathia has his 12th victory and he earned it.
- Girardi decided to use six-time Gold Glove winner Chavez as the designated hitter to “rest” him and the manager found out McGehee is a butcher in the field with no range. He brought Nix in to play third in the eighth inning but, by that time, the Tigers had clawed back into the game at 8-7 because of McGehee’s substandard play at third. I guess Girardi has learned a valuable lesson.
- Cano committed an error and Teixeira also misplayed a pair of grounders so the Yankee defense was somewhat lacking. With Chavez playing third, the Yankees have a combined total of 27 Gold Gloves including every member infield. They also were on a steak of 13 errorless games since July 24. However, they did not play that way on Wednesday.
- For some reason, Girardi also turned his players loose on the base-paths and two of them got picked off. Swisher got the green light after one-out walk and was picked off by Below. Cano and Teixeira followed with singles but the Yankees did not score that inning. An inning later, Suzuki took off too early with one out and ended up be being picked off by rookie left-hander Darin Downs. Those things hurt.
The Yankees will complete their four-game series against the Tigers on Thursday.
Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.19 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up just one run on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday but ended up a 1-0 loser to Felix Hernandez. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA in limited action against the Tigers in his career.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Doug Fister (6-7, 3.52 ERA). Fister threw a complete-game victory over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. He is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
TIGERS 7, YANKEES 5
For the second straight start veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia got knocked out in the second inning and a last-ditch ninth-inning rally fell just short as Detroit defeated New York on Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
Garcia was shelled for six runs on five hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings, the big blows were a three-run home run by Andy Dirks in the first inning and a two-run double by Miguel Cabrera in the second that chased him from the game. Garcia is now 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old rookie left-hander Drew Smyly (1-0) pitched six innings, giving up only one run on Nick Swisher’s home run the bottom of the first inning, to pick up his first major-league victory.
The Yankees, meanwhile, made it interesting in the late innings when Curtis Granderson homered off former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke in the seventh inning and they added three runs in the ninth inning off Tigers closer and resident hot dog Jose Valverde.
Swisher began the inning with his second home of the game and his sixth of the season. Alex Rodriguez then drew a one-out walk. Granderson later added a two-out single to score Rodriguez.
Pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez slapped an RBI double down the left-field line to score Granderson and draw the Yankees to within two runs and brought the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Eric Chavez.
Chavez slapped a high drive down the right-field line that was caught just at the warning track by right-fielder Don Kelly to end the rally and allow Valverde to get his heart out of his throat. Instead of his usual victory dance after the last out, the clown just walked off the mound sporting an embarrassing 5.59 ERA.
The loss dropped the Yankees’ season ledger to 11-9. The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak and are 11-10.
- Swisher’s two home runs came from each side of the plate and he extended his American League-leading total of RBis to 23. Because Swisher’s contract expires at the end of the season, he is hoping a good season will convince the Yankees to offer him a long-term deal to stay. Considering in his last 10 games, Swisher is hitting .350 with four home runs and 12 RBIs it might be a good idea to do it before the season ends.
- Granderson’s solo home run in the seventh gave him seven on the season. In his last eight games, Granderson is hitting .367 with four home runs and eight RBIs. His only negative this season is his 24 strikeouts in 78 at-bats.
- Cody Eppley gave up a solo home run to Cabrera in the eighth inning and that was the only run the bullpen allowed after Garcia left in the second inning. Clay Rapada, David Phelps and Eppley combined to give up just the one run on two hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings. Phelps, who seems to be assured of a start soon, faced the minimum nine batters in his three innings of work, striking out two.
- Garcia has started his last game for some time and it may be his last start for the Yankees, period. Manager Joe Girardi said Garcia may land on the disabled list so the Yankees can determine why his pitches have dropped so much in velocity from last season. Girardi may have some announcement about it on Sunday.
- Robinson Cano has been a major disappointment all season. He was 0-for-4 on Saturday and he saw only 11 pitches in those at-bats. He lined out sharply in the first, struck out looking on three pitches in the fourth and flied out weakly in the sixth and ninth innings. Cano is hitting .253 with just one home run and three RBIs batting third or fourth for the Yankees behind a red-hot Derek Jeter. Something is not adding up here.
- The Yankees managed only Swisher’s home run, a Rodriguez single and two walks off Smyly in his fourth major-league start. This has ben a pattern with the Yankees when they face a pitcher for the first time. They take way too much time trying to figure out how to approach them and end up on the losing end.
Andy Pettitte’s minor-league start scheduled for Monday has been shifted from the cold climate of Portland, ME., to the warmer weather of Tampa, FL. Pettitte, 39, will start for Class-A Tampa on Monday and he expected to throw about 90 to 95 pitches. The veteran left-hander came out of retirement in the spring and hopes to rejoin the Yankees in mid-May.
The Yankees will try to win the three-game weekend home series with the Tigers on Sunday.
CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.27 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia has won his last two starts and he is coming off an 8-inning outing in which he gave up four runs against the Rangers on Monday. Sabathia is 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA lifetime against the Tigers.
Max Scherzer (1-2, 8.24 ERA) will oppose Sabathia. Scherzer has struggled in all of his four starts this season. His 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 4
YANKEES 10, TIGERS 1
When the Detroit Tigers traded Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees in 2009 they never could have envisioned how badly the principal in that trade would come back to the Motor City to haunt them.
With the Tigers needing only one victory to advance to the ALCS in front of sellout crowd of 43,527 at Comerica Park on Tuesday night, Granderson made two spectacular highlight-reel catches and drove in a key run early to back the solid pitching of A.J. Burnett as the Yankees staved off elimination with a decisive thrashing of the Tigers.
For Burnett (1-0), the night was sweet redemption from past postseason failures and the travails of two very bad regular seasons. Burnett was not even scheduled to start in this series before rain forced a suspension of Game 1. Coming off a season in which he was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, Yankee fans had there hearts in their throats in the opening frame as Burnett, almost true to expected form, walked the bases loaded with two outs and Don Kelly heading to the dish.
After Burnett fell behind 1-0, Granderson’s grandiose evening in the city where he started his career began. Kelly laced a sharp line-drive that was heading right over Granderson’s head in centerfield. Granderson first took a step in and then retreated, spun his head around, extended his glove as high as he could and corralled the ball in the tip of the webbing of his glove to save three runs from scoring.
From that moment on Burnett was a different pitcher. Other than giving up a solo home run to Victor Martinez to lead off the fourth, Burnett was able to command the strike zone with his fastball and unleash his deadly curveball to keep the Tigers off balance.
Burnett gave up only four hits and, despite walking four batters, he struck out three in 5 2/3 innings. It was Burnett’s first postseason victory for the Yankees since his scintillating shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. The road from an anathema to a postseason savior has been a very long one for the 34-year-old right-hander.
Granderson’s catch also seemed to spark the offense, which was oddly dormant for the last two innings on Monday and the first two innings against Tigers starter Rick Porcello (0-1).
Pocello opened the third by hitting designated hitter Jorge Posada with an 0-1 pitch. Russell Martin followed with the Yankees’ first hit.
One out later, Derek Jeter laced a double over the head of Austin Jackson (who the Tigers acquired from the Yankees in the Granderson deal) off the base of the centerfield wall that scored Posada easily. But Martin had to slide to the extreme outside of the plate and reach back with his left hand to avoid the relay throw from Jhonny Peralta and the swipe tag of catcher Alex Avila.
After Martinez’s home run that sliced the lead to 2-1, the Yankees added to their margin in the fourth off Porcello.
Martin opened the frame with a another single. Instead of laying down a sacrifice bunt to move Martin, Gardner fooled the Tigers and sliced an opposite field single to left.
Jeter then botched a sacrifice bunt by hitting the ball right back to Porcello, who turned and forced Martin at third.
But Granderson bailed out Jeter and the Yankees by lacing a double off the wall in centerfield to score Gardner and advance Jeter to third. After Robinson Cano was walked intentionally to load the bases, Alex Rodriguez drove in his third run of the series without the benefit of a hit with a sacrifice fly to deep center.
Energized by a 4-1 lead, Burnett was able to keep the Tigers off the board and he was removed in the sixth inning after he gave up a two-out single to Kelly.
Rafael Soriano came in to relieve Burnett with Peralta strolling to the plate.
Peralta turned on Soriano’s first offering and lofted a high fly ball into the gap in left-center. That is when Granderson came back to take another giant bite out of the hand of the team that once fed him.
Granderson raced into left-center and laid out his body in a full dive and caught the ball again in the tip of the webbing in a play that easily outshone the multi-run-saving catch he made in the first inning. Tiger players and Tiger fans watched stunned as the centerfielder they once cheered and loved had come back to put a nice leather-laced dagger in their collective hearts.
While Soriano, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched no-hit ball the rest of the way, the Yankees’ offense unleashed a torrent of hits on the Tigers’ bullpen to ensure that any thoughts of a Tiger comeback was futile.
The Yankees ripped former teammate Phil Coke (who was also part of the Granderson trade), poor mistreated Al Alburquerque, Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry for six runs on seven hits as they sent 11 batters to the plate in a 35-minute eighth inning.
The Tigers did really get generous when Alburquerque balked in a run and Schlereth uncorked a wild pitch to allow another run to score.
Cano capped off the inning with a two-run single that pushed the margin to 10-1, marking the most runs the Yankees have scored in an ALDS game.
By that time, most of the Tiger faithful had abandoned their playoff seats and headed home, which is where they will have to watch the fate of their team in Game 5 on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
With Granderson’s support in the field and with his bat, the night truly belonged to Burnett, however.
Manager Joe Girardi said it best: “I was proud of what he did. In a must-win situation for us, he pitched one of his best games of the year.”
There is no player in Major League Baseball that I despise more than Jose Valverde.
If you have not caught his caught his act, it is a lot like watching a very hammy and awful lounge singer in pink sequins. With the every out he prances around the mound in as if somebody in the Tigers locker room slathered his jock strap with itching powder.
He is in, more than a few words, a overweight slob and a hot dog without an ounce of genuine professionalism. You want an example?
How about this quote: “(Justin) Verlander has it [Monday]. Next day, have the celebration in Detroit – 100 percent. The Yankees have a good team, but I think that’s it for them.”
Now some in the Detroit media are passing it off as if Valverde were joking in order to tamp down any potential harm may come if the prediction does not come true. But the fact is Valverde has been baiting opposing teams and hitters for years with his tired act on the mound.
Closers with class walk off the mound and take congratulations from their teammates. They don’t contort themselves and gyrate like they never have a retired a major-league hitter in their life.
But “Valveeta” (I will call him from now on because his act all cheese and them some) took it to a whole new level on Monday night. Not content with the fact that he was a few pitches close to being pulled from the game in favor of left-hander Phil Coke, Valveeta had to go way over the line in professionalism.
In the ninth, after retiring Nick Swisher, our rotund frankfurter walked Jorge Posada. Then he allowed pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez to steal second easily. The next batter, Russell Martin, came within a few choice feet of real estate in right-field of putting the Yankees ahead by a run against this supposedly unshakeable closer.
Then the man French’s could use in an ad campaign, continued to walk the tightrope (which is tough to do when your off-season training regimen consists of lifting Budweisers by the caseload to your gullet), walked No. 9 hitter Brett Gardner on four straight pitches.
Manager Jim Leyland had Coke throwing hard and fast in the bullpen because he had seen this same thing before when Valveeta pitched the ninth on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
Valveeta then got ahead of Derek Jeter with two quick strikes. As most closers would do in this situation, you would want to waste a pitch outside and maybe get Jeter to chase. That is what most closers would not do. Not Valveeta.
He decides that he needs to intimidate Jeter and he buzzes him with a pitch that was not only up and in, but was sailing directly for his noggin.
Now in baseball, there is an unwritten rule that there is nothing wrong with throwing inside. Heck, when Martin was hit with a pitch by Verlander in the seventh, I had absolutely no issue with it.
You also have a right, if you wish, to attempt to throw at someone. That is all part of the game.
But there is also an unwritten rule that you do not aim for someone’s head, particularly when it is someone like Jeter.
If it was A-Rod or Barry Bonds, I could maybe see the reasoning. It still would be a bush league tactic. But, at least I would understand the motivation of this degenerate a–hole.
However, Jeter is the symbol in baseball of a genuine professional. He plays the game right and he has never done anything in his entire career to show up another player or brought anything but class to the game.
But Senor Valveeta thinks it is the only way he can win and, after all, that is the bottom line. It is not how you play the game. It is just that you got to win, right?
You better be careful where you tread, Valveeta. Karma can be a female dog. A “caliente” female dog.
I am not saying that the Yankees might retaliate on Tuesday night, I am saying they will retaliate on Tuesday. It is only a question of when and to whom.
Knowing the Tigers and how Leyland thinks, he would probably have his starter Rick Porcello plunk a Yankees hitter in the first inning to see if he can get the umpires to issue a warning early. But umpires are usually loathe to issue a warning, especually in a playoff game, before a second incident occurs.
The Yankees thus have one shot at this and they better make it a good one. I am not talking CC Sabathia’s polite fastball to David Ortiz’s hindquarters either. I am talking an A.J. Burnett riding fastball, inside and head high, to Miguel Cabrera. He probably will be so tanked up on Jose Cuervo he would not feel it anyway.
It is just too bad that Valveeta does not play in the National League where pitchers bat. Of course, he knows that closers don’t bat so he hides behind that fact like a little boy scrambling behind a mother’s skirt.
He is gutless, classless and revolting.
Other than that, I have no issue the hot dog.
Do not be surprised if this all wakes up the Yankees and brings them back into the series. Mr. Valvetta may regret the can of worms he opened. Maybe he thought he was opening another can of beer!
The regular season has come to a close and any postseason that does not include the Boston Red Flops is a positive. The Yankees enter the playoffs with the best record in the American League (97-65) and with home-field advantage through the American League Championship Series. It is time for the final season report cards on the players that brought them to this point.
CENTERFIELD – CURTIS GRANDERSON (41 HRS, 119 RBIs, .262 BA, 136 Rs, 25 SBs)
You really have to root for genuine good guys like Curtis Granderson, who dramatically turned his career around last August by adjusting his batting stance and swing with batting coach Kevin Long. The result was an MVP-caliber season and it now makes his trade to the Yankees from the Tigers look very lopsided. Consistency was Granderson’s hallmark, too. He hit .267 with 22 home runs and 54 RBIs in the first 81 games. He hit just below that with 19 home runs and 65 RBIs in the second half. Granderson was second to Jose Bautista of Toronto in home runs, he edged teammate Robinson Cano by one RBI for the American League lead in RBIs and topped Ian Kinsler of Texas by a whopping 15 runs for the major-league lead in runs scored. He also stole 25 bases and he played a much better centerfield than he did in 2010. What is incredible is Granerson’s previous highs were 30 home runs in 2009, 74 RBIs in 2007 and 26 stolen bases in 2007, all with Detroit. But Granderson has put all the elements of his game together at one time and he was the Most Valuable Player of the winningest team in the American League. If MVPs are supposed to lead their teams into the playoffs, he is your MVP in 2011. The only knock on Granderson is the low batting average, which is a product of 169 strikeouts, the third most in the league. Granderson came to the Yankees after hitting .188 against left-handers in 2009. In 2011, Granderson actually hit for a better average against left-handers – .272 as opposed to .258 against right-handers. Also, despite leading the league in RBIs, Granderson hit only .242 with runners on scoring position. That indicates if Granderson would not press in clutch situations he could drive in more runs. That is scary to think about. Granderson’s fielding also improved in 2011. He cut down on his habit of taking odd routes to balls, made only three errors and he had 11 outfield assists, another career high. At age 30, Granderson is finally living up the great promise he showed in Detroit and he has become indispensable to the Yankees.
Granderson made 150 starts in centerfield this season. When he was not there, Brett Gardner was. Gardner is a great luxury for the Yankees because he actually is a second centerfielder in leftfield. He is actually a better fielder than Granderson with his range and he has a better arm. But Gardner is content and has carved his own niche in left. The Yankees are just blessed to have two very fast and athletic centerfielders on the roster.
SECOND HALF GRADE
Granderson received an A for his first half and because he improved his RBI total in the second half, he deserves an A+. Granderson has always been one of those guys you root for because he is truly a very good person who does such great work in the community. By reshaping his swing, Granderson has reached another level as a player. The fact that he rose to an MVP-caliber season is just astounding and more credit to him. The Yankees knew he was good when they dealt Austin Jackson and Phil Coke for him. But they had no idea he was this good. In my view, Granderson should win the MVP. But, even of he does not, he had a wonderful season. Yankee fans just hope he can carry it into the playoffs and help lead the Yankees to their 28th world championship.
OVERALL GRADE A+
You can quibble about the low batting average and the strikeouts, but Granderson is a very good baseball player who had himself a great season. He did it largely from the No. 2 spot in the batting order, which is not easy. Granderson’s swing is built for Yankee Stadium, with its short dimensions in right. However, I do not remember many of Garnderson’s 21 home runs being cheap wall-scrapers. The fact he hit 20 on the road shows he was legitimately hitting 41 and not feasting off Yankee Stadium. You add up the power, the production, his base-running, the improved fielding and you come up with one very special season. Curtis Granderson is simply one very special player and the Yankees are lucky to have him in a season when Alex Rodriguez missed so much time.
We have reached the midpoint of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees. Despite the pundits dire predictions about their so-called “suspect” starting rotation, they have the second-best record in baseball and the best record in the American League. They finished the first half on a seven-game winning streak and they were 30-12 (.714) from May 17 to July 2, the best record in baseball. Now it is time to hand out our annual report cards for the players who built that record.
CENTER-FIELD – CURTIS GRANDERSON (.267 BA, 22 HRs, 57 RBIs)
Last season, the trade that brought Curtis Granderson looked like a bust. Granderson missed a month early in the season and did not hit well we he returned.
He was not hitting for a lot of power, not hitting for average, he was striking out a lot and forget about it when he faced left-handers. After the Yankees dealt away lefty reliever Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to Detroit and starter Ian Kennedy to Arizona, the Yankees might have felt they had been had.
But Granderson turned around his season (and perhaps his career) thanks to some tutoring from hitting coach Kevin Long in the first week in August. From that point on Granderson has been much more like the player he was with the Tigers in 2007 when he .302 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs as primarily a leadoff hitter.
Granderson closed the season on a high note with a big September finish and he hit very well in the playoffs.
The question was could he keep it going in 2011?
Looking at his midpoint statistics, you would have to say the answer is resounding yes. In fact, with Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira not exactly having first halves that were at the top of their game, Gramderson has been the Most Valuable Player on this team.
Afetr 81 games, he leads the major leagues in runs scored with 73, he is second on the team in home runs with 22 and second in RBIs at 57. He is second in stolen bases and he is hitting .271. His career batting average is .268. So in just about any measure you can quantify, Granderson has been very good.
The other thing is nine of his 22 home runs have come off left-handers this season. That is most of any player in the majors leagues. In fact, Granderson is actually hitting left-handers not much worse than he hits right-handers (.263 vs. lefties and .272 vs, righties). That says a lot about Granderson’s commitment to improving and the help Long gave him seems to have rejuvenated his career at age 30.
Granderson has spent most of the season hitting behind Derek Jeter and ahead of Mark Teixeira in the No. 2 spot. Granderson’s .369 on-base percentage shows he is getting on base ahead of the power hitters and scoring runs in droves. He is on a pace to score 148 runs, which would obliterate his career high of 122 in 2007.
Not to mention the fact he could hit 44 home runs and drive in 114 runs, which would, far and away, be new career highs. This is pretty lofty heights for Granderson but they are well-deserved — as was his selection by the fans to start in the All-Star Game.
Now Cashman is looking like a genius for making the trade. That is why it is tough to evaluate a trade based on just one season. It is looking very good for the Yankees now.
Another thing about Granderson is that this season he appears to be more comfortable playing center-field in Yankee Stadium. Last season, he misjudged some fly balls and took some odd routes to flag them down. But this season, he likes the Yankee strategy of playing shallower in the outfield. Granderson seems effortless in going back on balls and he still is able to reach the sinking liners and weak pops that normally fell in shallow center last season.
Granderson has committed only one error and he has three outfield assists. But teams will still challenge his very average arm in the outfield. He does not have as strong an arm as Nick Swisher and he is not as accurate on his throws as Brett Gardner. But in almost every other aspect of the game, Granderson is exceptional.
His base-running is excellent. Granderson already has seven triples this season and he is on a pace to break his career high in stolen bases at 26. He has 14 steals after 81 games and he should have even more opportunities to steal in the second half.
What is there no to like about Granderson?
Yankee fans have gravitated towards him and he is such a great ambassador of the game off the field, too.
I have to give Granderson a solid A for his first half. The reason he is not getting an A+ is because the batting average needs to be a bit closer to .300 to make his season complete. Granderson also leads the team by 20 in strikeouts. Most of them have come on change-ups in the dirt. Granderson is being fed a steady diet of breaking balls lately and he is going to have to adjust to keep his great season going.
As long as he stays committed to the swing Long has worked on with him he should be OK. He is more balanced as the plate, his swing is shorter to the ball and he is keeping both hands on the bat. Though he does not consider himself a home run hitter, Granderson is taking full advantage of the short porch in right-field.
Most Yankee fans would have considered it shocking if he hit 30 home runs this season. Now they would be surprised of he does make it to 40. Such are the way Granderson’s fortunes in pinstripes changed so dramatically.
I would think Granderson’s second half should be just as productive as his first if he remains healthy. It seems he has it all working for him now.
I will discuss others and prospects when I review the performance of right-fielder Nick Swisher. But Granderson started 79 of the first 81 games and Gardner is the only other player on the roster who started in center. This is Granderson’s position and as long as he is healthy and productive, he will not see much rest in the second half. I am sure that is just fine with Granderson.
FIRST HALF GRADE
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A