It wasn't quite Kirk Gibson in 1988, but Curtis Granderson's game-tying home run Monday was about as improbable a mid-July blast there can be.Granderson wasn't supposed to play in the Mets' 3-2 loss to the Nationals on Monday as he continued to battle tightness in his right hip flexor. But
It wasn't quite Kirk Gibson in 1988, but Curtis Granderson's game-tying home run Monday was about as improbable a mid-July blast there can be.
Granderson wasn't supposed to play in the Mets' 3-2 loss to the Nationals on Monday as he continued to battle tightness in his right hip flexor. But he hobbled to the plate in the highest-leverage situation possible for the Mets: Two outs in the top of the ninth with his team trailing by two. Granderson fell behind 0-2 before pulling an outside fastball from Nationals reliever Matt Albers and lofting it up high -- real high -- and just barely over the right-center-field wall at Nationals Park to tie the game at 2.
For a moment, Bryce Harper stood in disbelief as he watched Granderson's ball clear the railing. Granderson, mindful of his hip, hoped he would only need to trot around the bases.
"I was just watching Harper run the whole time," Granderson said. "He went back to it. He stopped. I was like, 'OK, I didn't get enough.'
"And then he looked up. I was just hopeful that it would get up, because I was unsure what I would be able to do after that in terms of trying to go extra bases. The fact that it went just enough was a good thing."
How improbable was Granderson's dramatic blast? By Statcast™'s metrics, its combination of 102.6-mph exit velocity and sky-high 41-degree launch angle has translated to a home run less than three out of 10 times since the technology was introduced at the beginning of 2015. They have also gone for a hit just 27 percent of the time in that span.
Statcast™ has already tracked more than 3,100 home runs in 2017, and Granderson's is only the 53rd to be hit with a 41-degree launch angle or higher. But those lofty heights are not abnormal for Granderson. Entering play Monday, he ranked second out of 201 hitters who had put at least 150 balls in play with a 21.3-degree average launch angle (only Yonder Alonso had a higher average at 22.2 degrees).
Granderson's penchant for lifting the ball has made him one of the Majors' best home-run hitters out of the leadoff spot over the last two-plus seasons, but there's another side to the sword. Out of that same group of 201 hitters, his 14.5 percent popup rate was the third-highest entering Monday's action, and his 36.8 percent rate of hitting what Statcast™ classifies as "under" the ball ranked second highest, behind Tigers leadoff man Ian Kinsler.
Considering that Granderson had gone 0-for-28 on those popups and 2-for-69 on those balls he'd hit "under" coming into Monday, his incongruous homer totals and batting average make more sense. Indeed, Granderson had gone just 1-for-46 on the balls he had hit with a 41-degree angle or higher in 2017.
"It was really high, I knew he got it pretty good," said Michael Taylor, who had one of the best vantage points of Granderson's homer from center field. "It sounded good, but I didn't think it was going to carry the way the trajectory was going."
The Mets fell short Monday night, but Granderson's high fly ball did not. It may still be one of the team's more unlikely moments by season's end.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.