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Granderson's HR powers Yankees to win

New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson (14)

New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson (14) watches his three run homerun in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. (May 1, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

Curtis Granderson was standing in front of his locker after the Yankees' 5-2 win over the Blue Jays Sunday, talking about returning to Detroit for the first time as a Yankee, when suddenly he paused.

A clubhouse kid had arrived, and Granderson stopped to toss him the colorful tie he was preparing to wear on the team's flight to Detroit. Then, while Granderson resumed talking, the "clubbie" positioned the tie into a nice knot around his own neck before handing it back.

Granderson accepted it, somewhat sheepishly. "I'm in a tie-making slump," he said.

But he's pretty good at tiebreaking. Granderson continued his hot hitting Sunday with a three-run homer in the fifth inning that proved to be the difference in the Yankees' victory, their fourth in five games.

Ivan Nova (2-2, 5.14 ERA) came through with his second consecutive positive outing, pitching into and out of trouble throughout most of his 61/3 innings. He gave up six hits and four walks but mostly limited the damage, allowing two runs before handing the ball to a team of relievers.

David Robertson, Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera (10th save) combined to throw 22/3 hitless, scoreless innings to preserve the victory.

But the Yankees (16-9) wouldn't have been in position for the win without Granderson's homer, a phrase that is becoming far more commonplace around this team, especially compared with last year. The home run was Granderson's eighth; he didn't hit his eighth last season until July 25.

"If you look back all the way to last August, Curtis has been a different player for us," manager Joe Girardi said, referencing the behind-the-scenes hitting session last summer in Texas in which hitting coach Kevin Long overhauled Granderson's swing.

Beginning Aug. 14, Granderson has hit 22 home runs in his last 244 at-bats. That's the third-most homers in the majors in that span, behind the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista (27) and the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki (23).

"There's a lot of power in that body," Long said, "and when your swing is efficient and short and working like his is, that's the result you'll see. Some power."

That was apparent to everyone in the fifth, which the Yankees began trailing 2-1 after taking a 1-0 lead in the first on Mark Teixeira's seventh home run.

Jorge Posada, hitless in 19 at-bats, led off the inning with a double to rightfield, advanced to third on Brett Gardner's line-drive single to right and scored the tying run when Francisco Cervelli grounded to shortstop.

Derek Jeter followed by hitting a grounder to shortstop Yunel Escobar, and Gardner surprisingly took off for third on contact. Escobar thought he had a play at third, eschewing the sure out at first base, but Gardner beat the tag, putting runners on first and third.

Granderson then got ahead of righthander Jesse Litsch 3-and-0. He got the green light but swung and missed -- and on 3-and-2, he launched an 88-mph fastball into the rightfield stands. Bautista turned his back to the plate and drifted back slowly but knew he had no chance.

In his last 15 games, Granderson is hitting .351 (20-for-57) with six home runs, 15 RBIs, a .377 on-base percentage and a .789 slugging percentage.

Acquired in a November 2009 three-team trade in which the Yankees sent Ian Kennedy to Arizona and Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to the Tigers, Granderson said he's been looking forward to the upcoming four-game series for quite some time.

He missed last year's visit to Detroit because he was injured, and this is the team that drafted him, developed him and gave him a chance in the majors.

His parents will be in the stands, as will a few friends, he said. The only question he has is how the fans in Detroit will greet him, especially now that a full year has passed since he was traded away.

Said Granderson, "I don't know if people forgot."

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