Curtis Granderson may be a step or two below the caliber of a gold glover at this stage in his career, but he's still a lauded-enough center fielder to have forced the fleet-footed Brett Gardner to move over to left, so "The Grandy Man" can still run them down pretty well out there.
Except on Saturday night.
In what appeared to be nothing more than a simple misread — Granderson initially broke in on the ball before realizing that it would be over his head — the center fielder dove for, but was unable to come up with Pedro Ciriaco's line drive to straightaway center, allowing Ciriaco to get in safely to third with a triple (and eventually score) and Jacoby Ellsbury to come all the way around from first base. It felt like a breakthrough moment for the Red Sox after Vicente Padilla yielded the tying runs the previous half inning in losing his personal confrontation with Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira.
Suffice to say, this was a win the Red Sox badly needed, the difference between getting back to within a game of the .500 mark, or moving three below it. It's difficult to say that any July game is a "must-win," but this one definitely had that kind of implication hanging over it, with the trade deadline looming and Boston still trying to figure its wild card chances. So, given the circumstances, the way in which the Sox came back after giving up the tying runs and blowing a five-run lead were heartening, at least.
But it all could have gone the other way.
If Granderson gets a better read off the bat of Ciriaco and initially breaks back, he likely catches that ball. A split second in the time it took to react to a 90 mph pitch flying off a wooden stick going even faster is really the only difference between the Sox taking this game, and going to the bottom of the ninth a mistake away from facing a series sweep on Sunday.
But the Red Sox will take a win any way they can get it, at this point, and any team is going to have to have a little luck on its side to advance to the playoffs and make it through them successfully. And, with all the injuries and bad breaks that have fallen upon the Sox this season, the club certainly seems due for a little good fortune going forward.
"We were good tonight and we were lucky," said manager Bobby Valentine about the Sox' win and Granderson's misplay. "[Ciriaco] hit a knuckleball 380 feet. It’s tough to catch."
Of course, there were the factors that are still well within the team's control to worry about — Padilla's blowup, the fact that Lester isn't out of the woods yet — but those are concerns for another day. Right now, Boston's focus can only be on the opportunity in front of it — the chance to actually take a series from the Yankees and move back, once again, to the .500 mark.
Accomplish that, and the team will see where the dominoes fall, what the tea leaves say and how the cookie crumbles.