Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner were the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the Yankees' 6-4 win over the Twins at Target Field. Girardi had mulled replacing Gardner with righthanded-hitting Austin Kearns, as he did in several late-season games.
"Gardy had some success off Liriano and Austin has been banged up at the end of the year with the bad finger and the bad elbow," Girardi said before the game. "You have a big outfield here and that's why we went with Gardy."
Before last night, Gardner was 3-for-9 (.333) vs. Liriano. Granderson was 4-for-22 (.182) with 12 strikeouts. Kearns was 2-for-5 (.400).
Granderson justified Girardi's faith by delivering a two-run triple that gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead in their four-run sixth inning. The drive high off the right-centerfield wall knocked Liriano out of the game.
Liriano held lefthanded hitters to a .218 average with no home runs this season. Gardner hit .252 vs. lefties, Granderson .234, but Girardi noted that Granderson has improved in that regard over the second half of the season.
"We felt over the last two months Grandy's numbers off of lefthanders . . . we threw them out because of the way he has been swinging off of lefthanders," he said.
Kearns hit .252 against lefties and .270 against righthanders.
Granderson is the replacement for Hideki Matsui and/or Johnny Damon, depending on how you look at it. Both were key cogs in the Yankees' World Series title last season, and the lineup is different without them.
"Matsui was the first hitter to hit behind Alex [Rodriguez], and Robinson Cano stepped up this year to fill that spot," Girardi said. "And Granderson, since August, has been really, really good for us. And we made minor adjustments in his swing and we felt that we got better defensively. We had speed in our outfield, and Johnny was a huge bat for us last year. But we feel that Grandy, you look at what he has done since , he has been really, really good."
Darned if Girardi's decisions didn't have an immediate impact. In the second inning, Marcus Thames walked and Jorge Posada singled with two outs in a scoreless game to bring Granderson to the plate. He grounded to first on the first pitch, a 94-mph fastball.
Gardner led off the third by walking on a 3-and-2 pitch. In the fifth, Granderson and Gardner struck out.
The rest of Girardi's Game 1 decisions were rather routine. Thames, a .300 hitter against lefthanders, started at designated hitter. Lance Berkman will replace Thames at DH against righthander Carl Pavano.