Curtis Granderson stole the show Thursday night by going yard three-times in a perfect outing at bat to power the New York Yankees past the Minnesota Twins, 7-6, in the Bronx.
On the eve of their rivalry series with the Red Sox this weekend, the Yanks fell behind early for the third time in their series against the Twins, after starting pitcher Phil Hughes gave up four runs in the first inning. As Hughes faltered, Granderson shined. The Yankees center fielder delivered a taste of Mr. October-sized drama, as he became the first player in Yankees history with five hits and three home runs in a single game, to help Hughes overcome his rough start to earn the win.
In the first inning, Granderson fell behind before pulling a 93-mph 3-2 fastball off Twins righty Anthony Swarzak. In the second, he sent a 90-mph 3-1 Swarzak fastball soaring into the second deck in right field for a two-run shot. And in the fourth, against reliever Jeff Gray, Granderson picked up his third homer on a 2-2 changeup and came out of the dugout for a curtain call, as the sellout crowd delivered a roaring ovation. With three homers in his first three-at-bats, Granderson –who hit a career-best 41 homers and a league-best 119 RBIs last season– joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson as the 20th Yankee to have a home-run hat trick. He also became the first Yankee to hit three homers in a game at the new Yankee Stadium.
The 31-year-old Granderson came to the ballpark early on Thursday to work with hitting coach Kevin Long. Entering the game with a .208 average, three homers and six RBIs, Granderson was searching for his timing. It’s safe to say that he finally discovered it. “A lot of work went into today before we stepped on the field,” stated Granderson, after the game. “I was struggling to get myself in good position to be able to do things when I wanted to do it. That’s what we worked on today.” It all came together on Thursday night with three historic swings.
The most famous three-homer game –probably in baseball history– belonged to Jackson at the old Yankee stadium. The Hall of Famer hit three homers in the clinching game (Game 6) of the 1977 World Series, where he anointed and forever known as Mr. October. Jackson spoke to the media after Granderson memorable night. “It’s nice to see,” said the 65-year-old Jackson, who is a special adviser to the Yankees. “I would have liked to seen him hit the fourth.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the only Yankee to hit four home runs in one game was Lou Gehrig, who did it against the Philadelphia Athletics on June 3, 1932. Granderson is the first Yankee with a three-homer game since Alex Rodriguez did it against the Kansas City Royals on August 14, 2010. Granderson singled cleanly in the sixth inning and ran out an infield single in the eighth, beating the throw to first base, to finish 5-for-5 as New York earned a split of their four-game series with the Twins.
Yankee captain Derek Jeter continued his hot hitting streak with an RBI single in the second inning for his 3,110th hit, tying him with his childhood idol Dave Winfield for 18th on the career hits list.
The Yanks (7-6) will travel to Boston on Friday to open a series that marks the teams’ first meeting this season. The Red Sox (4-8) will be celebrating 100 years of baseball at Fenway Park, which opened with a game between Boston and the New York Highlanders on April 20, 1912.