With second game-winner in a week, Swisher on track for a turnaround
JUN 19, 2014 6:55p ET
CLEVELAND -- Nick Swisher summed up his day when he said that one at-bat can turn a whole day around.
The lasting memories from the Indians' 5-3 win over the Angels at Progressive Field on Thursday won't be of Swisher's first four at-bats, but of the 10th inning winning walk-off grand slam that he hit off Ernesto Frieri to give the Tribe their 11th win in their last 12 home games. It also moves Cleveland within 2½ games of the AL Central lead with Detroit coming in for a key weekend series.
Swisher's home run to right on a 1-2 fastball is the ninth walk-off grand slam since Progressive Field opened in 1994 but the first in extra innings. It is only the third time it has happened in Cleveland history since 1962. Dan Dillard had one on July 4, 1962, against the Tigers and Carlos Martinez beat the Mariners with one on Sept. 6, 1992.
"I love being in those spots," said Swisher of his fourth walk-off homer but first via grand slam. "One of two things is going to happen -- either you are going to get a hit and be the hero or you are going to be the goat. I'm just happy to come out on top and be the hero."
After the Angels scored twice in the 10th to take a 3-1 lead, Michael Bourn led off with a walk off Cam Bedrosian and then advanced to third on a one-out double to left by Jason Kipnis. Carlos Santana drew a walk to load the bases and chase Bedrosian. With Frieri in, David Murphy hit a fly ball to left that wasn't deep enough to bring Bourn home, setting the stage for Swisher.
Going into the at-bat, Swisher had been 2 for 24 since coming off the disabled list with 10 strikeouts and had seen his batting average dip under .200. After striking out in his first three at-bats, Swisher made good contact on a Joe Smith pitch in the ninth but with the way the wind was blowing in, it died in center field.
The wind was still blowing in an inning later but this time Swisher hit it to right and barely got over the wall. Swisher said when he faced Frieri on Monday night he saw mostly sliders but in this at-bat the right-hander came at him with all fastballs.
With the grand slam, which is his second game-winning home run the past four games, Swisher is batting an even .200 with five home runs and 24 RBI.
"I thought his last at-bat (against Smith) he hit it as good as he could hit it into the teeth of the wind," manager Terry Francona said. "(In the 10th) he stayed on it and he had all good swings. He fouled a couple back and got on top of one and hit it through the wind again. The ballpark was playing so big today. They hit a couple that probably should have been out."
Swisher's home runs and RBI are about the same as last year, his batting average is 39 points lower. For someone making $15 million, there comes added criticism especially when the batting average hasn't been higher than .227 since April 26.
Carlos Santana is hitting .191 but at least there have been signs that he is starting to warm up. In the 13 games he has played since coming off the DL, Santana is 14 for 44 and has raised his batting average 32 points. The other thing that is overlooked with Santana is even though his batting average was bad he was still getting on base as he was among the league leaders in walks. Swisher's on-base percentage is third lowest on the team.
The hope is that with his heroics of the past week, maybe Swisher will start to find more consistency at the plate.
"He hasn't gotten a lot of hits but it seems like the hits he has gotten are huge," Francona said. "As long as he's healthy, which he is, he'll get going. His average might be a little bit lower because of the slow start but he'll impact us offensively. There are guys when their baseball cards are that long and they're not hurt they will hit. That's the way the game is."
Added Swisher: "I'm starting to get in the rhythm a little bit more. Feel like I'm getting more in the game. I wasn't going up there taking any pitches. That might be the mentality I need to start taking."
It is Cleveland's sixth walk-off win this season, the fourth in extra innings. All of them have come in the past 19 home games. A look at the walk offs:
May 7: Minnesota 4-3 Mike Aviles RBI-single in 9th
May 19: Detroit 5-4 (10) Michael Brantley solo HR
May 21: Detroit 11-10 (13) Al Alburquerque bases-loaded balk
June 1: Colorado 6-4 Michael Bourn 2-run HR
June 4: Boston 7-4 (12) Asdrubal Cabrera 3-run HR
June 19: Los Angeles 5-3 (10) Nick Swisher grand slam