Curtis Granderson led the Yankees with 43 home runs this season. But when the slugger came up in the fifth inning Thursday night with a runner aboard, he didn't blink when the sign was relayed to him from the dugout. At that moment, manager Joe Girardi decided that the team's best option was for Granderson to give himself up.
Only weeks ago, it would have been unthinkable. But after the Yankees' excruciating 2-1 loss to the Orioles in 13 innings, even Granderson said he wasn't surprised.
The sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium had plenty of booing options on the menu, but Granderson made himself a conspicuous target, finishing 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, one of them coming after he failed to put down the sacrifice bunt. Little has gone right for Granderson, who is 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts in his four games in the AL Division Series.
"The fans are expecting a lot out of you," said Granderson, who is tied with Alex Rodriguez for the most strikeouts in the playoffs. "And when you don't get it done, they're going to go ahead and they're definitely not going to cheer."
Of course, Granderson is not alone. In the series, Russell Martin is hitting .214. Ichiro Suzuki is at .200. Nick Swisher is hitting .133. Rodriguez is down to .125 and Robinson Cano is hitting .111. But Granderson takes the grand prize at .063. The six have gone 14-for-99, a good reason the Yankees are hitting .216 as a team.
"I'm chasing a couple of balls out of the zone," Granderson said. "So I've got to go ahead and swing at some more strikes and then continue to stay aggressive and continue to attack."
Throughout his career, Granderson has been vulnerable to the strikeout, even before his days as a 40-homer threat. His production helped mask the whiffs. But this season, Granderson has morphed into a feast-or-famine hitter. His second straight 40-homer season also came with a career-high 195 strikeouts.
Overall, Granderson finished with a .319 on-base percentage, his lowest in a full season. His 28.5-percent strikeout rate was his personal high. It also was the eighth-highest strikeout rate in baseball.
And without production from Granderson, it's quickly becoming a trade-off the Yankees no longer can afford.