Unfazed Granderson rebounds in Game 5
About the only thing the struggling Yankees center fielder admitted in New York's five-game series with the Orioles was that he started chasing pitches out of the zone, before offering another reminder that four playoff games is a small sample size with a second-deck shot to right field in Friday's 3-1 win.
"The swing has felt similar for the entire series, it was just a matter of being down and ready to hit and attacking pitches in the zone," Granderson said after going 2-for-3 to help New York advance to face Detroit in the AL Championship Series, with Game 1 set for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS. "You understand, 'OK, this is what they're going to try to do to get you out,' and you try to be disciplined enough to take those pitches. Sometimes you get the calls to go your way and sometimes you don't, but when you do get pitches in the zone, you have to try not to miss those."
Alex Rodriguez earned most of the fans' ire in the Bronx, proving unproductive out of the three-hole before he slid down to fifth in the lineup for Game 4 and sat on the bench for Game 5.
Granderson spent the entirety of this series at the bottom of the order, despite leading the team with 43 home runs during the season. He hit seventh three times and eighth twice, going 1-for-16 with one walk and nine strikeouts before providing signs of life in the decisive Game 5.
Each of his strikeouts were swinging, with one Thursday coming after he was twice unable to lay down a sacrifice bunt, fouling off two pitches to fall behind Joe Saunders, 0-2.
"I'm chasing a couple balls out of the zone, so I have to go ahead and swing at some strikes," Granderson said after an 0-for-5, Game 4 with three strikeouts that epitomized New York's offensive struggles. "That's just part of not recognizing and attacking the pitches I want to hit, for whatever reason that may be. It's definitely not pressing."
Granderson entered the series as a productive postseason hitter. He appeared in 27 playoff games before this season with the Tigers and Yankees, hitting .267 (27-for-101) with 15 runs, 16 RBIs and 14 extra-base hits.
Now he is stuck in the bottom of a lineup that scuffled through most of a five-game series against Baltimore, doing just enough to advance. Manager Joe Girardi pointed to strong pitching, before offering a reminder that Granderson was not the only slugger struggling this series.
And when it came time for Game 5, Granderson remained in the lineup.
Girardi said the decision was a product of matchups with Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel, who started and surrendered a single to the left-handed-hitting Granderson. But Granderson's seventh-inning homer came off lefty reliever Troy Patton.
"Obviously, he came through today," Girardi said. "That third run is a huge run for us and off a lefty. For Curtis, the big thing is when he swings at strikes, he is extremely dangerous."
That is the hitter Girardi penciled into his lineup for most of the season, although it was typically at the top of the order. Granderson started only eight games in the bottom third of the order, with most of his at-bats coming in the two-hole.
That changed in the season's final month, with Granderson's second-half struggles resulting in the worst batting average of his career at .232. He hit .212 after the All-Star break, though his 20 home runs nearly matched the 23 he hit in the first half, prompting questions about his homer-centric approach with a tantalizingly short porch in right field.
After his first four postseason games, Granderson still refused to budge.
"I haven't gone backward in four games after three years," Granderson said. "Four games is all that's happened right now."
After the fifth, he offered a reminder of what he can do.
"You have to understand that things can turn," Granderson said. "It's part of baseball. It was four games, and over the course of the season, you go through [tough] four-game stretches all the time. Obviously, these are more magnified and more intense, but you have to continue to swing the bat."