BOSTON: There were logical reasons Nick Swisher seemed like an improbable hero, even though logic doesn’t always fit the Indians’ ebullient first baseman.
When he came to the plate in the 11th inning Sunday against the Boston Red Sox, Swisher was 1-for-12 in the series and batting .203. He’d been activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday after battling problems with both knees. He had only three home runs, none since May 16, and the shadows were making it tough to hit.
But it was Father’s Day, and Swisher’s 1-year-old daughter, Emme, was at the park. And Fenway is one of Swisher’s favorite places to play, even if he still gets booed as an ex-Yankee.
Red Sox manager John Farrell looked at Swisher’s series numbers and decided to let right-hander Junichi Tazawa challenge him. Swisher jumped on a 2-1 pitch from Tazawa and wrapped it around the right field foul pole for a home run that sent the Indians to a 3-2 victory before a sellout crowd of 37,356.
“This year’s kind of been crazy for me personally,” Swisher said. “To be able to come up with a huge hit like that, help this team win a ballgame, especially here, Father’s Day … it was crucial. I was so stoked, man, I wanted to smile all the way around the bases.”
Cody Allen (3-1, 2.70 ERA) pitched a perfect two innings to get the victory, earning another because of his quick work in the 10th.
The Indians closed out a 10-game road trip with a 5-5 record and won their second consecutive game to split the four-game series with the Red Sox. Tribe manager Terry Francona was elated at Swisher’s homer, but didn’t feel safe until center fielder Michael Bourn’s glove closed on Grady Sizemore’s fly ball for the final out.
“That’s a difficult game to win and we found a way to win it,” Francona said.
Signed to a four-year, $56 million contract before the 2013 season, Swisher played through a shoulder injury last year and finished with a torrid September. This season, he’s battled issues with both knees, hyperextending his left, which sent him to the disabled list.
“Last year I had to deal with a little bit of something, this year I’m doing the same thing,” Swisher said. “My second half last year I really, really turned it on. That’s kind of what [it’s seeming to] turn out like again. Just trying to get into the rhythm of the game. You go down there and play Double-A games, it’s not the big leagues.
“Going up there and taking my swing, not trying to manipulate stuff and punch balls to left field, that’s not my style of hitting. I walk a lot, I strike out a lot, I’ll hit you some home runs and I bring a lot of energy. Just getting back to being me is my main focus.”
Right-hander Corey Kluber said the Indians have faith Swisher can find himself again.
“We all have confidence in Swish, we all have the feeling that it’s going to come around,” Kluber said. “When you have that kind of track record it’s not an act, you don’t suddenly forget what got you to that point. Hopefully this is kind of that building block.”
As he dressed in red suede loafers and dark blue jeans — “I’m wearing Indians’ colors!” he observed — Swisher couldn’t wait to celebrate with his wife, JoAnna Garcia, and daughter.
“Had the whole squad,” he said. “Emme was in the ballpark, I’m so stoked to go out and see her. Even though she won’t remember this, I will.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.