Granderson not content with debut
After making final out, new addition won't savor early homer
BOSTON -- It was Curtis Granderson's first real look at this thing, his first taste of the rivalry. And there he was, staring down Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the ninth.
Welcome to Fenway Park, Curtis.
Round 1 went to Papelbon when Granderson grounded out to put the final touches on Opening Night -- a 9-7 loss for the Yankees on Sunday. But there will be plenty more at-bats against Papelbon this season, plenty of other critical moments. And Granderson, the newest Yankees headliner, spent the first eight innings of Sunday's game proving he's up to the task.
In his first at-bat with the Yankees, Granderson blasted a solo homer into the center-field seats, sparking one of the most explosive Yankees debuts in recent memory. Granderson finished 1-for-4 with a fine catch in center field, slipping on his new road grays and contributing heavily in a losing effort.
Yet by game's end, all of those contributions had slipped into the deepest recesses of his brain.
"The [thing] that's going to be remembered is the fact that I didn't come through at the end of the game," Granderson said.
In reality, across a 162-game season, even that sour taste won't linger for long. But if Granderson can contribute on a nightly basis -- providing power, defense and speed -- the Yankees will embrace him.
Granderson's first such impact came in the second inning, when Sox starter Josh Beckett began to unravel. With two outs and no one on, Granderson drilled a Beckett pitch to the deepest part of Fenway Park, just to the right of the center-field triangle. Not since Cody Ransom in 2008 had a Yankees player homered in his first at-bat with the team, and not since Dave Winfield and Steve Kemp in 1983 had a pair of Yankees gone back-to-back on Opening Day, as Granderson and Jorge Posada did in the second.
And so Granderson rounded the bases, savored the moment and did his best to forget it.
"Considering it was so early in the game, you really can't get the emotion too high on it," Granderson said. "As exciting as it is, you've got to go ahead and calm down real quick, because you've got to go play defense."
Which he did. With aplomb. In the bottom half of the inning, Granderson made a fine leaping catch of Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly, helping stunt Boston's first rally of the game.
The season was less than an hour old. And in a world of small sample sizes and overreactions, Granderson was a king.
No one doubted Granderson's raw power when the Yankees traded for him back in December, sending highly regarded prospect Austin Jackson to Detroit as part of a seven-player, three-team deal. But Granderson has always been a line-drive gap hitter -- good for 20-something homers, along with doubles and triples galore. The outfielder's extreme lifetime splits against left-handers -- just 16 homers and a .344 slugging percentage in 619 at-bats -- have hampered his overall power numbers.
A move to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, a paradise for left-handed batters, hinted at a slight uptick in Granderson's homer totals.
But this was not Yankee Stadium. And Granderson's homer was not a line drive. To hit it where he did takes some serious power.
And to get the better of Papelbon takes some serious skill. After Posada singled with two outs in the ninth, making Granderson the potential tying run, Papelbon started him off with a fastball at the knees. Granderson fouled off the next pitch, then took a ball inside before sending a weak grounder to third.
Game over. But the season had just begun.
"We want to be victorious," Granderson said. "No matter what you did out there, at the end of the day, it's going to be, 'What did the Yankees do?' Not, 'What did Curtis Granderson do?' And we lost today. I had a chance to keep the inning going, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to get it done."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.