Swisher walk-off slam sends Tribe over Halos, 5-3
Tied in extras, the switch hitter comes through with the biggest hit of the year
CLEVELAND—All it takes is one hit.
Trailing the Angels 3-1 in the bottom of the tenth inning, Nick Swisher got some sweet redemption. Hitless in the ballgame with three strikeouts, the switch-hitter came up big when it mattered most, connecting on a game winning walk-off grand slam to send the Tribe to a 5-3 victory.
“One at-bat can turn a whole day around,” Swisher said. “I was just trying to put the ball in play.”
Boy did he ever, launching a two strike pitch from L.A. reliever Ernesto Frieri just over the wall in right field for his fifth long ball of the season.
“It’s a good feeling when you’re sitting there thinking you’re going to win,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Not hoping, but thinking you’re going to win. We hadn’t done a whole lot offensively all day.”
Halos southpaw C.J. Wilson shutdown Cleveland hitters for most of the afternoon Thursday, allowing just one run on three hits through seven dominant innings.
“I’ve been facing C.J. for a long time and I haven’t seen him like that in awhile,” Swisher said. “He put it on me pretty good and put it on the rest of us as well.”
As effective as Wilson was, Tribe starter Justin Masterson almost matched him pitch for pitch, tossing seven innings for just the third time since the start of May.
“Masty has such plus stuff,” Swisher said. “Every time the ball leaves his hand you never know which way it’s going to go. He’s our horse, he’s our guy and for him to step up and do what he did today, especially against a tough Angels team, you have to tip your hat to him.”
The only blip the right-hander gave up was a two out wild pitch in the second inning, allowing Los Angeles to take an early one run lead in the ballgame.
“We got the job done,” Masterson said. “We battled and my teammates were fighting for me and it worked. They kept fighting at the tail end of it.”
Getting two quick outs, the Angels dynamic duo struck in the series yet again.
A base-hit by Kole Calhoun and a double by Mike Trout set up the inning for three-time MVP Albert Pujols to give L.A. the lead, breaking the 1-1 tie with a two-run single through the right side of the infield.
“You’re running through the heart of that order and it’s not the best feeling,” Francona said. “I thought Atchison actually pitched him tremendous, give Pujols credit. He’s pretty smart and he beat us with it.”
But the Wahoo’s would be saved a half inning later, just in the Nick of time.
Coming into the bottom of the tenth scoring just one run on four hits, Tribe bats finally awoke in extras. With one out and Michael Bourn on first, Jason Kipnis lined a hustling double off rookie reliever Cam Bedrosian (0-1, 14.29 ERA) into left-center field to give the offense a chance to mount a comeback.
After Bedrosian walked Santana to load up the bases, David Murphy flied out to leave it up to Swisher, having a chance to be the game’s hero.
“In a situation like that, you have great speed on the pads,” Swisher said. "And for me, I was just trying to come up there and put the bat on the ball. I had just assumed that Murphy was going to do it and when he didn’t, I guess I had to step up.”
Hitting just an even .200 on the season, the first baseman has become victim of criticism for not contributing like his track record shows. But in less than a week, he’s given his team a win with not one, but two clutch homers to the seats. The last coming Sunday at Fenway Park in an extra innings win over Boston.
“Either you’re going to get a hit and be the hero, or you’re going to be the goat,” Swisher said. “It was nice to come out on top and be the hero. I love being in those spots. Not exactly the best home run days of all with the flag blowing in, but either way I’ll take it.”
So will his skipper.
“I”ll take a win anyway we can get it,” Francona said. “He got on top of one and hit it through the wind. The ballpark was playing so big today that ball barely made it out and he hit it as good as he can hit it.”
Cleveland (37-36) wins the series with the comeback victory, taking two of three from the Halos in the shortened three-game series. It also gives them 11 wins in their last 12 games at Progressive Field, as 22 year-old rookie Kyle Crockett (1-0, 1.23 ERA) picks up his first Major League victory tossing 1/3 of a scoreless inning.
“I think for us to comeback like that and win the way we did, it just shows a lot about what our team is made of and what we can do,” Ryan Raburn said. “We just need to keep playing hard.”
Up next for Indians: Central division rival Detroit (37-32) invades Cleveland to start a three-game weekend series beginning Friday night. Corey Kluber (6-4, 3.35 ERA) gets the start against Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello (8-4, 4.03 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. The Tribe is 4-1 in five meetings with Motor City Kitties this year.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My question: If a player is batting .200 because he is trying to pull the ball all the time, why isn't that player benched until he complies with the coaches' instruction not to do it? Obviously, the player knows how to not try to pull the ball all the time. The same question is for Santana too. From all accounts, Chis finally did this and, wow!, he now hits over .350. And look at Murphy...and Brantley.
Seem to me the team needs a philosophy of hitting and that players need rewards when they adhere to that philosophy and sanctions when they don't..
Gotta love those walk-off grannies.