As the first high-priced free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson era, Curtis Granderson had to shoulder great expectations in his first year as a New York Met. What few people wanted to think about were the great obstacles that would plague the outfielder in his transition from that other New York team. Between his return from injury, move to a new league, and escape from the Little League-sized house that Steinbrenner built, it was fair to expect that Grandy would struggle at the beginning of his tenure in Flushing. The upside to that thinking? When Curtis finally did figure it out, how grand he would be. This is a story of the first time he figured it out.
Sep 17, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson (3) hits a run-scoring ground out against the Miami Marlins during the eighth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
#7 – A Grand(y) Walk-Off (April 25)
Through his first 22 games wearing orange and blue, Curtis Granderson hit .137 with one home run and an OPS under .500. Despite their expensive new toy’s struggles, the Mets were 12-10, winners of 12 of their last 19 and three of four against St. Louis during the week. Now Citi Field welcomed the Miami Marlins for a weekend set, and a slick Friday Night in Flushing would provide Grandy his first chance to live up to his name.
With Zach Wheeler and Henderson Alverez locked in a pitchers’ duel, runs would be hard to come by. New York came by two of them in the third inning, starting with an Eric Young single and steal of second. After Granderson flew out, David Wright singled home Young, and Daniel Murphy plated Wright with a slicing double down the left field line. The Mets went up 2-0, and Wheeler looked to keep them there.
The Marlins cut into the lead when Marcell Ozuna singled home a run in the fifth, but Wheeler limited the damage by forcing the dangerous Giancarlo Stanton to fly out with two on and two out. Wheeler made his exit after six innings of one-run, four hit, three-walk, 10-strikeout ball, in line for his second W of the season.
And he would have gotten it, too, but there was a small matter of the bullpen having to hold the lead. Thanks to two swings of the bat, it couldn’t. Gonzalez Germen pitched a perfect seventh and was one out away from doing the same in the eighth. But Jarrod Saltalamacchia fought battled Germen for six pitches and deposited the seventh in the Party City Deck. Four pitches later, Garrett Jones golfed one down the right field line and gone. Lead blown, tie broken. All of a sudden, it was the Mets who had to get back into the game.
A feeble eighth didn’t help, and neither did the man who Miami sent to the mound for the bottom of the ninth. Steve Cishek had converted 33 consecutive save opportunities, a Marlins franchise record. Naturally, the perfect time to string together a rally, right?
Lucas Duda led off with a bloop single to left and went to second on Travis d’Arnaud’s sac bunt. But Bobby Abreu narrowly missed a hit when Christian Yelich snagged his liner to left, bringing up light-hitting Omar Quintanilla. Down to his last strike, Mr. Q dropped one in front of Yelich in left. Duda raced for home, but Yelich’s bobble ensured there would be no play at the plate. Quintanilla was the hero of the moment, and the Mets had cracked Cishek to extend the game.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed with a double to put the winning run on third. That brought up Curtis Granderson, mired in an 0-4 night despite some hard-hit outs. His next hard would finally find open space. Granderson connected on a 0-1 fastball, and his rocket scooted under Jones’s glove at first and into right field. Quintanilla scored easily, and the Mets were walk-off winners for the first time all season.
Apr 20, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Teammates mob New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson (3) after winning the game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mets won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
It would take Curtis a while longer to pull it together; he closed out April hitting .136. But the arrival of May saw the arrival of the Grandy Man. He got off the Interstate for good by June 1 and hit .274 with 13 home runs from May 1 through the All-Star Break. Granderson then fell victim to a post-Break slump, batting .155 with two homers from July 18 to September 2. Followed that dry spell with yet another hot streak, closing out 2014 hitting .333 with an OPS over 1.000 in his final 22 games.
Curtis Granderson is a streaky player. Sandy Alderson knew that when he signed him, and he got confirmation throughout Grandy’s first season in Queens. As a result, Curtis was the around .230 hitter he became in his last full season with the Yankees. When it comes to the three issues brought up at the beginning of this piece, however, Granderson seems to have passed. He stayed healthy all season, playing 155 games. He now has a full season of National League pitching under his belt. Only seven of his 20 home runs came at Citi Field, but the new dimensions in right field should help lefties like Curtis improve their home run outputs. Expect Curtis Granderson to be streaky again in 2015, but if he manages to string together four good months, expect the Mets to provide the power and soar to the top of the NL East.
April 25: the 7th most Amazin’ game of 2014. On Friday, we’ll provide respite from the chaos of Black Friday to bring you #6.
Amazin’ Ten of 2014