Second Thoughts Game #73: Angels 3, Indians 5
Swisher earns redemption with extra inning walk-off grand slam
It's precisely games like this that make baseball the greatest sport of all time. Not only will you see some of the most unexpected moments of heroism, the reward of redemption is nowhere near as sweet as it is in America's Pastime.
Nick Swisher had about as bad a game as a hitter could have, let alone one being paid $15 million a year. In his four at-bats during regulation play, the Tribe first baseman struck out three times and incurred the wrath of many fans. Then in the 10th inning, after one of the Tribe's best clutch hitters in David Murphy popped out with the bases loaded, Mr. Bro-Hio stepped up to the plate for his fifth at-bat with two outs and ducks on the pond.
A long drive to right field made everyone forget about those first four at-bats.
On a side note, congrats to rookie left-hander Kyle Crockett on earning his first big league win, which was lost in the shuffle of the excitement.
Player of the Game: Nick Swisher (1-for-5, HR, 4 RBI, 3 K).
Well, a walk-off grand slam is a good way to take your mind off not only a bad game, but a tough stretch in general at the plate. Watching Swisher circle the bases after the ball cleared the right field wall and listening to him interviewed afterward, besides being his typical enthusiastic self, there seemed to be a certain sense of relief in his voice and in his home plate celebration.
I'm sure after going 1-for-24 since coming off the disabled list leading up to that 10th inning at-bat had to be weighing on him somewhat and coming up with a big clutch hit like that hopefully lightens that burden and allows him to stop pressing at the plate so much moving forward.
Now speaking as a first-hand spectator, I can tell you that I saw a different hitter in the two games Nick Swisher rehabbed down here in AA Akron last week. He was more relaxed and wasn't trying to do too much. Obviously, the point of a rehab assignment isn't to try and get hits, so that wasn't his primary focus, but he earned the hits he got.
He went 3-for-6 with two doubles and two RBI during his brief rehab assignment, but what was more intriguing was that his two doubles were to the opposite field and straightaway center field, respectively. He also smacked a lineout to short in his first game as he, again, made solid contact to the opposite field.
Of course, take six at-bats against AA pitching with a grain of salt for a seasoned major leaguer like Swisher, but I just wonder if the grand slam will help him relax at the plate and stop trying to pull the pull the ball so much.
A Battle Won
"Battling" has been pretty much the theme for Justin Masterson's season up to this point as he has had to work for every strike, every out and every win much more than he's been used to in season's past. He has been his own worst enemy, though, as command issues, mechanical issues and a drop in velocity have kept him and pitching coach Mickey Callaway busy around the clock.
The right-hander was finally rewarded for his efforts on Thursday, however, as he pitched seven quality innings while allowing only one run on four hits. He did issue three walks, hit a batter and uncork a wild pitch, which allowed that run to score, so his command still wasn't quite up to par, but he managed to work around it with a couple double plays and five strikeouts.
Considering his last performance in Boston, I think we can breath a bit of a sigh of relief for now in regards to Masterson, but regaining command and finding some consistent groove somewhere close to where he was as the Tribe's ace last season is still something the team will need to be successful as the season goes on.
Not to put a damper on a good day for Masterson, but as a fellow writer and I were discussing on social media earlier this week, the up-and-down nature of his season thus far may be attributed to some underlying injury or ailment that either Masterson is trying to pitch through or that he doesn't know about altogether. Just pure speculation and I hope it isn't the case, but the drop in velocity and lingering command issues this late in the season lend themselves to suspicion.
Up next: Tigers (37-32) vs. Indians (37-36) @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05 pm ET.
It may be only June, but this upcoming weekend series in Cleveland is not only big for the Tribe, but also the Tigers, who are no longer in first place and are only two games ahead of the Indians in the division standings. The red-hot Royals have taken over the top spot in the AL Central, but had their win streak snapped and their lead decreased to only half a game in their series finale in Detroit.
Indians ace Corey Kluber will take the mound for game one as he hopes to regain his dominant form from earlier this season. He is 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in his last three starts. He pitched seven innings of three-run ball against the Tigers in Cleveland on May 19th.
Rick Porcello has also been struggling a lot worse than Kluber lately as has gone 1-3 with an ERA of six in his last five starts with opposing hitters putting up a .301 batting mark over those outings. He has yet to face the Tribe this season, but owns an 8-3 record with a 3.59 ERA in 19 career starts against the Indians.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.