Granderson getting well vs. lefties
Tigers' better play coincides with outfielder hitting better
SAN DIEGO -- Curtis Granderson began playing more often against left-handed pitchers three weeks ago in an effort to improve his timing and approach against righties. So far, the timing couldn't have been better.
The Tigers' resurgence over the last few weeks has coincided with a comeback for Granderson. While a 10-game hitting streak through Saturday has bumped his batting average for the season 30 points over the past couple of weeks, putting him a more palatable .265 clip and .788 OPS, it's more than just the numbers. He's centering his bat on pitches instead of pulling everything, and the results are the kind of offensive variety that made him such a valuable leadoff hitter last year.
"Every season I've played, lefties can tend to get [me] back on track," said Granderson, who extended his hit streak to 10 games with a leadoff double Saturday. "And so far, hopefully, that's been what's happening. When you face a lefty that's had success, you just have to do everything right. There's no way you can have success and pull off the ball against a lefty, or else you're going to get a weak ground ball to the first baseman."
Friday's three hits off of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux provided a good example. Granderson led off the game with a 428-foot home run just to the right of straightaway center field, grounded a ball through the middle his next time up leading off the third, then fought of a steady diet of cutters to bounce up the middle to center in the fifth. Even his lone out, a flyout to center off Heath Bell in the eighth, wasn't exactly a pull shot.
If it were one game against one style of pitcher, it could be dismissed. But his previous games included a flyout to the warning track in left-center field and a double down the right-field line against Giants lefty Barry Zito, an opposite-field single off hard-throwing southpaw Jonathan Sanchez, and a similar liner to left off a fastball from fireballing Giants closer Brian Wilson on Monday.
"It's hard to say," Granderson said of a pattern, "because that lefty that day might've been great and knocked you in [to a groove]. And then the next day, you get another righty that can easily get you out of that. Each day's always different. You just have to continue to keep grinding. Hopefully, just having the same approach against a lefty and against a righty can get you back to where you want to be."
It's still a work in progress, but for the Tigers -- who sorely missed that leadoff presence early in the year -- the importance is that the progress is there.
"It looks like he's seeing the ball real good now," manager Jim Leyland said after Friday's game. "He gives us a lot of energy. He gets us going."
Granderson's at-bats against lefties haven't been bad since the uptick. He's a .205 career hitter against lefties and .240 this season, but he's 4-for-16 with a double and home run off southpaws in June while striking out just once.
At this point, Leyland actually sees some better at-bats against left-handed pitchers than some against right-handers.
"He's actually staying on the ball better against lefties than he does righties," Leyland said. "But I think against righties, he might get a little more long-ball conscious. And when you get that way, you usually pull off. And against lefties, I think he's just trying to stay on the ball, maybe hit it the other way."
The Tigers face one more lefty starter this road trip with Randy Wolf taking the mound for the Padres on Sunday.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.