Granderson's slam sparks MLB in Taiwan
American stars break through in third inning of rain-shortened win
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- It didn't take long for Curtis Granderson to put the "grand" in his last name.
In a slamming 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series debut, the Yankees center fielder hit a ball out of Xinzhuang Stadium for a grand slam that paced the Major Leaguers to a 7-0 rain-shortened victory over Chinese Taipei in Tuesday night's opener before a packed house.
Games 2 and 3, played at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, will air on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday and Friday at 9 p.m.; and Games 4 and 5, played at Chengcing Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung, will air at 5 p.m. on Saturday and at 9 p.m. on Sunday.
The game started a bit late because of day-long drizzle that turned into showers by nightfall, and the downpour finally halted play for good after the MLB team batted in the top of the sixth inning.
None of it bothered the baseball-crazy fans of Taiwan, who crammed the ballpark and expressed their enthusiasm for both teams all night long.
"They were so into it and excited about the game -- enthusiastic -- and it didn't stop," MLB and San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's a tough night, the way it was raining, but they stayed out there. I was impressed. ... We appreciate their passion for the game, and it's neat to see here in Taiwan."
The month-long layoff since the end of MLB's regular season and the lack of batting practice because of the rain might have showed for the big leaguers in the first two innings. That was not the case in the third.
Chinese Taipei left-handed starter Yao-Hsun Yang, who had been doing well with a fastball in the 89- to 91-mph range and well-placed secondary pitches, lost a bit of command and paid for it.
Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison led off with a bloop single to center field, and Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins and Angels shortstop Erick Aybar drew one-out walks to load the bases.
That set the stage for Granderson, who waited on a slider and drove it up, over the wall and clear out of the stadium in right field to give the big leaguers a 4-0 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Once he got to two strikes, he threw another slider, but it happened to be over the middle of the plate," Granderson said. "I finally got one I could handle and I put a good swing on it."
Bochy spoke with admiration of Granderson, who hit 41 homers in 2011 to lead the Yankees.
"He's had an incredible year, and I'm a fan, too," Bochy said. "I'm glad to have the chance to watch him play and to come here."
Yang, meanwhile, sounded like a Major League veteran in a postgame interview when asked about the Granderson at-bat.
"[Issuing walks] has been part of my problem," Yang said through an interpreter. "I feel like I executed the pitch, but it was just up, and he got me."
Granderson later added a single and scored on a Mike Morse RBI double in the fifth. Bonifacio accounted for MLB's other runs with a two-RBI single in the fourth.
The MLB team alternated between rustiness and brilliance on defense.
The boisterous, chanting crowd reached a frenzy in the bottom of the second, when an error by Robinson Cano while trying to turn a double play led to a sharp single by Chinese Taipei third baseman Wei-Chih Chen that loaded the bases.
Second baseman Pin-Chien Chen got the fans even more pumped up by working a 3-1 count against MLB starter Jeremy Guthrie, but his ground ball to Cano was handled perfectly. The Yankees' second baseman flipped to Aybar, who turned the inning-ending double play.
And in the bottom of the third, after Che-Hsuan Lin hit a leadoff double and moved to third on a Kuo-Hui Lo fielder's choice, third baseman Ryan Roberts charged Chun-Hsiu Chen's swinging bunt and threw on the run to barely record the third out in a highlight-reel play.
Guthrie pitched three scoreless innings, giving up four hits and striking out two, and he was relieved by Trevor Bell of the Angels and Phil Coke of the Tigers, who threw one shutout inning apiece.
"They were very good hitters who were able to get baserunners," Guthrie said of the Taiwan team. "They just weren't able to get any runs across because our pitchers made good pitches when they needed to."
All in all, though, Guthrie's final take on the game was shared by his teammates and manager: Taiwan is a great place to play, and the Chinese Taipei team appears to have a promising future.
"It was nice to get on the field and play against the team here from Taiwan," Guthrie said. "The biggest thing is we feel grateful to Taiwan and the city of Taipei for welcoming us here."
Added Bochy: "I thought they battled and really competed well. They have a lot of young players, but they had us on the ropes. You tip your cap. They were playing hard."