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Grandy's revival continues for Yanks

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Curtis Granderson is so good this year it makes you wonder if last season the Detroit Tigers shipped over his less-talented twin brother instead.

Last year, the final numbers were .247, 24 and 67. This year, with 67 games left to play, they are .272, 26 and 70.

But that's only part of the story of how much better the 2011 version of Granderson is than the 2010 version.

Coming over from Detroit, the knock on Granderson was that he could not hit a lefty if he parachuted into an NPR picnic. Last season, he hit just .234 against left-handed pitching, with a measly four home runs and 12 RBIs.

Wednesday night, he hit his 10th homer of the season off a lefty. And not just any lefty, but David Price, not only one of the premier lefthanders in the league, but one who is incredibly stingy against his fellow southpaws. In four years in the majors, Price has allowed just four home runs.

Granderson has hit two of them. Both this year. The second came in the first inning of Wednesday's game, on a 1-2 slider with Derek Jeter aboard that provided all the runs the New York Yankees and Freddy Garcia would need in a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

And one huge reason why they didn't need any more was because of Granderson's play in center field. In the fifth inning, with two out and runners on second and third, he chased down Evan Longoria's drive to the deepest part of Tropicana Field, caught it in full stride on the warning track and barreled into the wall so hard you could actually see the area behind it as the panels separated from the impact.

It was a remarkable play under any circumstance, but coming roughly 24 hours after Granderson lost a routine fly ball against the off-white ceiling that wound up costing the Yankees a game, it was more than that. It was practically redemptive.

"The big thing is, you know, you've got to reset,'' he said. "No matter what has happened the night before, good or bad, you just move on.''

Just about everything that happened to Granderson on Tuesday night was bad. Six innings before the missed fly, he got hit with a pitch on the top of his left foot that had him encased in so much ice he was hobbling around the clubhouse like a federal prisoner in leg irons.

Wednesday night, he fouled a ball off his right calf, already tender from a similar injury suffered three weeks ago at Yankee Stadium, and in the eighth inning, caught a 95-mph Price fastball right between the numbers.

In between, of course, he got up close and personal with the center-field wall, although Granderson said if you must run into a wall, the Trop's is a good one to choose.

"The good thing is this wall doesn't have much behind it so there's a lot of give there,'' he said. "It probably looked a lot worse than it was. All I got was a little scrape on the elbow when I hit the ground but everything else was fine. If it had happened at Yankee Stadium it wouldn't have been pretty.''

After Tuesday night's game, Granderson had said he would sleep well regardless of his role in the bitter loss. Surely, he would sleep well Wednesday night, too, if only due to the effect of back-to-back beatings.

Asked if he expected to need a day off on Thursday, Granderson said, "We'll see. For the most part I think I'll be all right. We'll see how things go waking up in the morning, but I should be fine. Should be ready to go.''

That is good news for the Yankees. Through the first 95 games of 2011, Granderson has been the Most Valuable Yankee, and in a world without Jose Bautista, probably the AL's Most Valuable Player.

In a lineup that boasts power hitters such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, no Yankee has hit for more power than Granderson, who leads the team with 26 homers. And with A-Rod sidelined for at least a month while recovering from knee surgery, it seems like a waste to bury that potent a bat in the two-hole in the Yankees' lineup.

"The guy's dangerous,'' manager Joe Girardi said.

It's a virtual 180-degree turnaround from this time last year, when not only Yankees fans, but some club executives, were wondering if the team had made a mistake trading away young, dynamic Austin Jackson for a player who seemed overrated, overpaid and in way over his head.

Now, no one is saying that about Granderson anymore. Since a well-documented benching followed by a series of cage sessions with batting coach Kevin Long in early August, Granderson has not just looked like a different player, he has been a different player than the one the Yankees acquired the previous December.

"The last two months of last season and in the playoffs, Grandy was great,'' Girardi said. "And it's carried over.''

Granderson's play in centerfield saved Garcia in the fifth after Johnny Damon singled and Casey Kotchman doubled. In three other innings, Garcia saved himself, striking out Matt Joyce to end the first, Evan Longoria to end the third and Sean Rodriguez to end the fourth, all with runners in scoring position.

It was all done with his now-patented repertoire of curves, changeups, sliders, sinkers and other assorted slop that kept Russell Martin flopping around behind the plate.

"It doesn't matter how hard I throw, I find a way to get people out,'' said Garcia, who improved his record to 8-7 and lowered his ERA to 3.21. "A lot of guys throw hard and they can't get anyone out.''

It was also a night of redemption for Boone Logan, whose failure to field a comebacker that could have been an inning-ending double play conspired with Granderson's miss to cost the Yankees Tuesday night's game.

Called into a similar situation -- two on, two out and the Yankees clinging to a 2-0 lead in the seventh -- Logan blew a 93-mph fastball past Kotchman to kill the final Rays threat of the night.

"It's always a good feeling when we all go out and do our jobs,'' he said.

But the night clearly belonged to Granderson, as so many have this season. But not too many nights as good as this one followed a night as bad as the one before.

"You just get yourself ready to go for the next day,'' he said. "I came in ready today and I'll come in ready tomorrow. Who knows what'll happen?''

Can't wait to see it, because the way Granderson has been playing this year, odds are it will be something spectacular. Last year's Granderson must have been an imposter. This one is the real thing.

•••

One more tale of redemption: Eduardo Nunez misplayed Robinson Chirinos' seventh-inning grounder for his 13th error of the season, and then came back to single in the final two Yankee runs in the ninth. … Garcia allowed eight hits, two of them infield singles, and struck out seven. … David Robertson pitched another outstanding eighth inning, striking out two, and Mariano Rivera, appearing in a non-save situation, also struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth. … Derek Jeter singled to lead off the game, his fifth straight hit off Price, against whom he went 4-for-4 on July 9 at Yankee Stadium, including a home run for the 3,000th hit of his career. Jeter is 6-for-30 since that game (.200). … Brett Gardner stole a base in the second, his 16th consecutive successful steal attempt. He has now stolen at least one base in five straight games and has not been caught stealing since June 18. … CC Sabathia goes for his 15th win of the season in the series finale, and last game of the road trip, Thursday night against RHP James Shields 98-8, 2.60). First pitch is 7:10 ET.