- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
- 0 Shares
OAKLAND -- Curtis Granderson wasn't one of the four New York Yankees named on the list of baseball's most overrated players in a national magazine poll, but if he keeps hitting the way he has so far this season, it won't be long before his name is at the top of the list.
The anonymous poll of major league ballplayers published annually in Sports Illustrated always seems to zero in on the most well-known players in the game, and right now, Granderson is well on his way to joining them.
Granderson knocked in four runs, two of them with a long home run on the fourth pitch of the game, and had three hits to lead the Yankees to a resounding 10-3 victory over the Athletics on Tuesday night at Oakland Coliseum.
Most remarkably, the home run came off a tough left-handed pitcher, Brett Anderson, who had not allowed an extra-base hit to a left-handed batter all season. Granderson's two-run single in the fourth also came off a lefty, as well as his single in the sixth that became the Yankees' ninth run of the game.
The three hits raised his average against lefties to .306, his home run total against lefties to nine -- one more than he has hit against righties -- and his RBI total to 41, tops on the team and just five behind league-leader Adrian Gonzalez.
Clearly, left-handed pitchers, who once were Granderson's bugaboo, are now his punching bags.
"The adjustment that this guy has made is remarkable," manager Joe Girardi said. "There are days when, if you make a mistake, he just doesn't miss it. That's what good hitters do and that's what he's doing."
On a night when it would be easy to mistake illusion for reality -- the A's, after all, don't boast much of a lineup, with six starters Tuesday night hitting .250 or less and no one with more than nine home runs -- Granderson is looking more and more like the real thing.
"It's still a constant battle for me," said Granderson, who is now hitting .284 with a .627 slugging percentage, second in the AL only to the fearsome Jose Bautista. "Sometimes I swing great, sometimes I don't. I'm still fighting it. Good pitch, good at-bat, bad pitch, bad at-bat.
"I'm still trying to achieve that consistency."
And still, he says, he checks the lineup card every day to see if his name is on it, and where.
"On this team, anyone can move, any day," he said. "Up, down, in, out."
Not Granderson. Not anymore. It used to be if a lefty was pitching, Granderson was either on the bench or buried at the bottom of the order. But lately, he has been in there every day in the 2-hole, no matter who is pitching for the other team or which arm he throws with.
After Derek Jeter (No. 3 on your list of overrated ballplayers, according to SI) smacked Anderson's first pitch of the game -- a one-hopper off the second-baseman's chest for an infield hit -- Granderson parked one in the right-field seats. Two innings later, Alex Rodriguez, officially SI's Most Overrated Player in Baseball, singled in the Yankees' third run.
Granderson followed with his two-RBI single in the fourth and then Robinson Cano, who has been struggling, sent one into low-Earth orbit for another two runs.
Meanwhile, Freddy Garcia, the other half of the geriatric duo anchoring the Yankees' starting rotation this season, was pitching well enough to hold the lead. In the fourth, he pitched around Kevin Kouzmanoff, loading the bases with two out, and then worked out of the jam by getting Andy LaRoche to bounce into a force play.
Two innings later, he chose to pitch to Kouzmanoff after Mark Ellis doubled with one out -- and nearly lost his head over it. Kouzmanoff hit a rocket back at Garcia, who snagged it in self-defense, heaved a sigh of relief, and then tossed to second to double Ellis to end the inning.
"I don't know how I caught that ball," Garcia (4-4) said. "It scared me. It almost hit me in my face. I got lucky."
Garcia finished up with a workmanlike seven innings pitched, nine hits allowed and three runs, including a two-run homer by David DeJesus in the fifth. But using his baffling assortment of off-speed pitches, Garcia never really allowed the A's puny offense to get a foothold in the game.
Asked if he was surprised by how well he has performed so far this season, Garcia just shrugged. "Not really," he said. "I been in this game a long time. I know how to go out there and do my business, get people out. That's normal for me. I worked hard in spring training for my position and I'm really happy to be doing what I'm doing."
But what Garcia has been able to do is in some ways more remarkable than what Bartolo Colon has done, considering how much he's had to change his style from the flamethrower he'd once been to the effective junkballer he now is.
"I don't know where we are without them, I really don't," Girardi said of Garcia and Colon, who are a combined 72 years old and have thrown a combined 4,100 innings in their careers. "They've given us a chance to win every game that they've pitched. Their numbers are outstanding."
Not as good as Granderson's numbers, of course, but unlike him, neither Garcia nor Colon is headed to the list of baseball's Most Overrated Players.
Granderson, on the other hand, looks like a lock for next year.
Catcher Russell Martin returned to the lineup after missing a game with a bruised big toe. Girardi removed him in the eighth inning after he went hitless, but said Martin is fine and will catch Wednesday afternoon's series finale. In the clubhouse, Martin said the toe is still sore, and he left the clubhouse wearing bedroom slippers. He originally injured it three weeks ago when he was hit by a grounder while running the bases during batting practice, an injury that required doctors to drill through his toenail to drain it of blood. ... Jeter had two hits, both infield singles, to raise his total to 2,983. He also scored three times. ... Mark Teixeira was credited with a steal of home in the sixth inning when he broke for the plate after A-Rod got into a rundown between first and second, and was safe when first baseman Conor Jackson threw wildly to home. ... A.J. Burnett (5-3, 3.99) goes for the sweep Wednesday afternoon against LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.17), first pitch at 3:35 p.m. ET.