New-look Tribe lineup heating up as All-Star break approaches
As strange as it sounds on the surface, the best thing to happen to the Indians offense ended up being disabled list stints for Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher in late May.
Nick Swisher is currently riding a season-high seven-game hitting streak, including three home runs.
David Richard / USA TODAY Sports
By Joe ReedyFOX Sports Ohio
CLEVELAND -- As strange as it sounds on the surface, the best thing to happen to the Indians offense ended up being disabled list stints for Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher in late May.
Consider the following -- for the first two months of the season, Terry Francona was playing a juggling game with Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall that wasn't working. Chisenhall wasn't getting enough at-bats despite the hot start, the constant shuffling between third, DH and catcher was affecting Santana. Despite struggling, Swisher was entrenched at first.
Since both Santana and Swisher have returned from the DL, Francona has found a way to keep all three in the lineup without the constant juggling game. Chisenhall has remained at third while Santana has flourished -- offensively and defensively -- at first.
As for Swisher, things didn't go well the first couple weeks he came off the DL. He became the regular designated hitter and saw his average dip below .200. There were game-winning homers against the Red Sox and Angels, but he batted .122 in June.
Since the calendar switched to July though Swisher has started to show some signs of getting back on track. He has a season-high seven-game hitting streak, including three home runs. In Friday's 7-4 win over the White Sox, his two-run homer into the Indians bullpen in right/center gave the Tribe the lead for good.
"For me at this point in time I really don't want this All-Star Break to come. I'm starting to heat up," Swisher said.
When he returned from the disabled list, Swisher batted .122 in June. Of his six hits, five were for extra bases including two home runs but he saw his average dip to .192. With the way that Santana and Chisenhall were playing, Swisher knew he couldn't grumble about being dropped down in the order and being moved to DH.
"Carlos (who was 1 for 3 on Friday with an RBI) has been doing a tremendous job at first. I have not earned the right to play first. There's no doubt about that," he said. "Being able to DH and take a little break, not being out there all game and letting my knee rest has been awesome. This past week I'm getting that passion and fire back."
In July, Swisher is 11 for 37 with 11 RBI. He got his third homer of the month in a three-run sixth that saw the Indians grab the lead. The key play in the inning was when Asdrubal Cabrera was called out at second on an attempted steal for the third out, but the play was overturned after replay showed that White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez missed the tag.
Chisenhall, who was 2 for 3, drove in Cabrera with a single to right to tie it at four and then came Swisher's blast on an 0-1 slider from Hector Noesi.
While Swisher is doing well in his current spot, Terry Francona is not ready to lock him into the DH slot permanently because he doesn't think it would do much good in the long term.
Said Francona of Swisher: "He has been doing a lot of stuff in the weight room where he can handle the rigors of the whole season. He's done a good job with it."
Besides Swisher's night, another good thing about the offense is that they responded whenever the White Sox scored. On a night when Corey Kluber didn't have his best stuff, the Indians tied it at two after the second and at three after the fourth before taking the lead in the fifth.
Kluber improved to 9-6 as he went six innings. The right-hander allowed four runs with five strikeouts and two walks.
The win allowed the Indians to even their record at 46-46. They are 5-3 on the current homestand.