Despite little recognition, Granderson continues to produce for the Mets
Granderson’s postgame routine is always the same. He sits in a cold tub for exactly eight minutes, no more and no less. Then he showers, slowly.
“I feel like I shower fast,” he said, “but for some reason I’ll get in there and guys will be in and out before I’ve finished up.”
Then he lays out a towel on the floor in front of his locker and gets dressed. After Game 3, he wore crisply ironed jeans, an unwrinkled long sleeve t-shirt and spotless high tops.
“Curtis is never in a hurry,” said Kevin Long, the Mets’ first-year hitting coach who also worked with the 34-year-old Granderson for four seasons when he held the same position with the Yankees. “He’s always doing things methodically, taking his time. He doesn’t rush to do anything. And he’s certainly not rushing to get his at-bats over with, I can tell you that.”
Granderson’s metronomical consistency often leads to his being overshadowed, despite leading the Mets in WAR in 2015 at 5.1. He was the player who was always there for the Mets this season, as their lineup suffered through injury and then was reimagined at the trade deadline, but his contributions didn’t receive the attention that, say, the club’s young aces did all year, and that Yoenis Cespedes’s did during the regular season and that Daniel Murphy’s did during the first two rounds of the playoffs. As they drew the focus, Granderson just kept working pitch counts from the leadoff spot, playing solid defense in rightfield, getting big hits.
Game 3 presented a new hero for the Mets, the one fans in Queens had been waiting all October—and much longer than that—to cheer: David Wright. In his 12 years with the Mets, Wright hit his first World Series home run in the bottom of the first, a two-run shot off Royals starter Yordano Ventura to give the Mets a 2–1 lead. Then he hit a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 8–3, which proved to be an insurmountable tally, even for these relentless Royals.
“This is what you dream about as a kid,” said the Mets’ captain, who played in just 38 regular-season games due to a spinal condition. “You’re thinking about playing in a World Series game, and on top of that being able to contribute with a few RBIs and a home run. Running around the bases, it’s just like floating. You can’t describe the excitement of hitting the home run, crossing home plate and seeing people going absolutely nuts. It’s one of those memories, at least for me, that will stick with me the rest of my life.”
Wright will capture most headlines and lead most highlights, but Granderson’s contributions on Friday night were just as significant, as they so often are. It was Granderson who, leading off the game against Ventura, reached first on a hard-hit infield single, where he stood until Wright’s homer drove him in. It was Granderson who hit a two-run home run of his own, on a line drive down the rightfield line in the bottom of the third, that put the Mets ahead 4–3 and gave them a lead they would never relinquish.
And it was Granderson who, with the Mets up 5–3 in the top of the fifth, sprinted to the warning track to turn a potential triple by Ben Zobrist into Mets starter Noah Syndergaard’s 10th out in a row.
“I looked at Cespedes, and he wasn’t going to get there,” Granderson explained, “so I just kept going.”
Said manager Terry Collins: “That was a great catch in right centerfield.... But he’s just had a phenomenal year for us. He picks us up when we need to be picked up.”
Granderson’s impact on the Mets runs deep, beyond the type of numbers that show that he and Wright combined to go 4 for 10 with two homers, four runs scored and six RBIs in Game 3. He is as fastidious in the batter’s box as he is off the field, hunting through an opposing pitcher’s offerings until he finds the one he likes—and thereby tiring the pitcher and allowing his teammates to get a good look at everything he has to offer.
Heading into Game 3, he had drawn an average of 4.6 pitches per postseason plate appearance, slightly trailing only Lucas Duda and Alex Gordon and trailing them only because Long had suggested that he uncharacteristically swing at Clayton Kershaw’s first pitch in Game 1 of the NLDS.
“That one, that’s on me,” said Long. “That was our gameplan, to be ultra aggressive on Kershaw.”
In Game 3 of the World Series, his first-inning single came against the fourth pitch he saw from Ventura in that at-bat, as did his homer. In all, he drew 22 pitches from the Royals on Friday night by himself. Just as he scored the first run of the game for the Mets, he also scored the last one.
“He’s kinda taken on this superhuman role of this leadoff hitter that just does it every single at-bat,” said Long. “I couldn’t think of a better guy to start our offense off.”
Granderson is the type of player whose accomplishments are accumulative. Suddenly you realize that he’s hit safely in nine of the Mets’ 12 playoff games. And that despite Murphy’s legendary hot streak in the first two rounds, and despite the fact that he hits leadoff, his 10 RBIs mean that he trails the second baseman for the team’s postseason lead by just one. And that he’s second to Murphy in batting average, too, at .283. And that he’s struck out only five times in 12 games, a third of the total of Cespedes and Wright.
Suddenly you realize that Curtis Granderson might be the Mets’ single most important player, on a nightly basis. Asked about the gravity of Saturday night’s Game 4, in which the Mets will seek to level the series at two games apiece, Granderson said, “Tomorrow is going to be the same situation as tonight was for us.”
One thing on which the Mets can count is that their leadoff hitter’s approach to each game, and to life in general, won’t change.