NEW YORK (AP) — With three quick long balls, Curtis Granderson had Mr. October hooked.
Granderson hit three home runs in the first four innings and matched a career high with five hits, leading the New York Yankees to a 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
Granderson homered in each of his first three at-bats, driving in four runs, and helped Phil Hughes overcome a four-run first inning to secure his first victory of the season.
“I enjoyed it,” Yankees special adviser Reggie Jackson said. “I think the nicest part was that he had two more chances to hit four. I was making sure I was watching the TV.”
Granderson hardly considered that he would have a chance to tie the major league record of four homers in a game when he was putting in extra cage work with hitting coach Kevin Long to try and find a decent rhythm at the plate.
But there he was, with many in the crowd standing and cheering in the sixth, when he lined a single to right field. In the eighth, he beat out a dribbler down the first base line with fans urging him to beat the play with screams. He was then caught stealing.
“A lot of work went into today before we actually stepped onto the field. Had some big issues with timing,” said Granderson, who came in hitting .208 with three homers.
Mark Teixeira hit his first home run of the year and the Yankees earned a split of the four-game series. The Twins have not won a series in New York since 2001, a year before Ron Gardenhire took over as manager.
Granderson homered to right-center in the first inning and hit a soaring, two-run shot into the second deck in right field in the second, both off Anthony Swarzak (0-3).
In the fourth, Granderson hit a line drive to the short right-field porch against Jeff Gray and came out of the dugout for a curtain call. Granderson is first player to hit three homers in a big league game this year. He’s also the first player to hit three at new Yankee Stadium.
“What he did today is a special day,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He should cherish it.”
Granderson became the 12th major leaguer to hit three home runs in the first four innings of a game, according to STATS LLC and the SABR Home Run Log. Alfonso Soriano was the last to do it for the Chicago Cubs on June 8, 2007, against Atlanta.
The three-homer game was the first for a Yankees player since Alex Rodriguez hit three at Kansas City on Aug. 14, 2010. Granderson has 12 career multihomer games. This was his first with more than two home runs.
“The kid can hit,” Gardenhire said. “You get it down there in that zone for him, he can turn on a baseball. That’s a nice porch out there for left-handed hitters and he took full advantage of it.”
The Yankees have had 28 three-homer games — Jackson hit three in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series — but only one of four homers, by Lou Gehrig in 1932.
Mariano Rivera, the fifth Yankees pitcher, worked a perfect ninth for his third save of the season and record 606th of his career.
For the third time in this series, the Yankees fell behind in the first. Ryan Doumit hit a two-run single to left that beat the shift. The Twins had loaded the bases on a single, a throwing error by second baseman Eduardo Nunez and a walk.
Danny Valencia then hit a long double to left-center on an 0-2 pitch to make it 4-0.
Teixeira also homered in the first, a two-run shot to almost the same spot near the Yankees bullpen in right-center that Granderson’s drive landed. A notoriously slow starter, Teixeira homered in his 46th at-bat this season.
Derek Jeter had an RBI single in the second for his 3,110th hit, tying him with childhood idol Dave Winfield for 18th on the career list.
Fighting to keep his spot in the rotation with Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda getting closer to being ready to join the team, Hughes (1-2) gave up six runs and six hits — two earned — in 5 1-3 innings.
“It was far from a good outing, but there are some positives I can take out of it,” Hughes said.
Swarzak had pitched better than his record suggested, receiving only one run of support in each of his first two starts, but he struggled from the start in this one. He gave up six runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings.
Twins shortstop Jamey Carroll made a diving stab of Jeter’s grounder in the first and an over-the-shoulder, diving catch on Robinson Cano’s pop to shallow left field in the second.
Doumit hit a two-run homer off Hughes in the sixth to cut the lead to 7-6.
“In this park, it’s fun to hit,” Doumit said.
NOTES: Yankees starters have a 5.59 ERA. Their bullpen has a 1.83 ERA, according to STATS LLC. … The teams combined for 19 runs in the first inning this series. … Twins CF Denard Span broke his bat tapping it on home plate during his at-bat leading off the game. … Joe Mauer went 1 for 5 on his 29th birthday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)