Covering the Bases: Game 92
FIRST: Let’s not go as far as declaring that Nick Swisher is back, but the Indians can at least take some comfort in the fact that it looks like he is returning to form as the All-Star break approaches.
Energy has been Swisher’s signature over the year and it’s fair to say that attribute has been picking up again lately. Prior to Friday’s win, Swish expressed excitement over the return of LeBron James and the things happening for Cleveland. During the game, he provided a go-ahead, two-run home run.
Brohio was back in business for at least one day.
“Regardless of the situation right there,” Swisher said of his momentum-swinging at-bat in the fifth inning, “I just wanted to come through in that spot. I didnt necessarily want to try to hit a home run.”
Over his past 10 games, Swisher has launched three homers and collected 11 RBIs. Prior to that stretch, it took 27 games for the first baseman/DH to have as many as 11 RBIs (he had 12 in that span to go along with a .177 average in 96 at-bats. In the more recent 10-game stretch, Swish has hit .297 (11-for-37). There’s still the matter of the seven-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, but Cleveland will happily accept the run production.
Now, the goal for Swisher will be to carry this personal momentum through the final two games and hope it holds beyond the break. At the moment, he is just savoring feeling healthier (“I think DHing, taking a little break, not being out there all game, letting my knee rest a little bit, has been awesome.”) and coming up with more big hits.
“I almost felt like I should take some powder and just throw it up in the air,” Swisher beamed about his home run.
Swisher spoke about LeBron’s return to the Cavs prior to Friday’s game and was asked if he felt that development might negatively impact the Tribe’s attendance. Unsolicited, Swisher revisited that topic following the Indians’ win.
Being a competitor of the Cavs is not something Swisher has in mind. He hopes fans in Cleveland will embrace all three teams in what is an exciting time for the city.
“Absolutely plenty,” said Swisher, referring to the fanbase. “I think that a lot of people take a lot of pride in all three aspects of baseball, football, basketball. Just the excitement level for us right now, even in here in this locker room, is just amazing. I know everybody outside this stadium is absolutely super stoked about what’s to come, and so are we.”
Call him an optimist, but Swisher has been a proud supporter of Cleveland (“It’s hot in the 2-1-6 right now!” he exclaimed before the game) since he signed with the club prior to last season. Say what you will about his contract, or his inconsistent production, but Swisher’s arrival helped pave the way for the success experienced by the Indians over the past two seasons, especially during last summer’s Wild Card run.
“Kind of with the way things are going right now,” Swisher said, “it kind of feels like we’re getting that attitude back, that confidence back and all aspects of the game — offensively, defensively. It’s been a lot of fun.”
SECOND: Instant replay helped the Indians avoid being no-hit by the Dodgers earlier this season. It’s also helped Cleveland turn a triple play. On Thursday, replay rewarded rookie Roberto Perez with his first Major League home run.
This time around, instant replay gave Cleveland second life and fueled a game-changing rally.
“Obviously you like it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, “especially when it helps you. But I do think it’s in place for the right reasons.”
With two outs in the fifth inning, Asdrubal Cabrera attempted a steal of second base. Cabrera was ruled out, but replays showed that Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez actually missed the tag. After a challenge by Francona, the call was overturned with a review. The Indians took full advantage, too.
“Calls like that can really kind of turn a game around,” Swisher said. “So, rather than just assuming that a call’s right, we’re making sure they’re absolutely right.”
Lonnie Chisenhall followed with an RBI single that pulled the game into a 4-4 deadlock. That is when Swisher stepped to the plate and launched the go-ahead, two-run home run to dead center field. The Indians did not look back, making the replay review a critical moment in the contest.
THIRD: Right-hander Corey Kluber did not win the American League’s All-Star Final Vote, finishing fourth in balloting that ended on Thursday. One day later, Kluber wasn’t his sharpest, but still managed to gut his way through six innings for Cleveland.
“Location wasn’t that great,” said Kluber, who gave up four runs on eight hits and ended with five strikeouts against two walks. “But, the important thing was that we got a win. The offense did a good job. They would bounce right back and score and answer. Then the bullpen came in and shut them down.”
Kluber gave up two runs in the top of the second, and the Indians answered with two in the bottom half. He allowed one in the fourth, and the offense scored one of their own in the same frame. The White Sox plated one off Kluber in the fifth, and then the Indians had their three-run burst in the same inning to pave the way to the win.
Francona liked seeing that kind of fight and support.
“Klubes didn’t have his sharpest stuff tonight,” Francona said. “They had a lot of hits early, but we kept answering. If you’re going to be down, coming back’s important.”
HOME: Let’s take a moment to tip the ol’ cap to Good Guy David Murphy, who belted a two-run home run in the second inning for Cleveland. That marked Murphy’s first home run since May 21, when he was batting .294 with five home runs and 30 RBIs through his first 43 games (143 at-bats). In the 41 games following that solid start, Murphy hit .190 with no homers and just 12 RBIs in 142 at-bats. His 1-for-3, two-RBI showing on Friday was a welcomed sight for the Tribe.
White Sox (44-50) at Indians (46-46)
at 3:05 p.m. ET Saturday at Progressive Field