To say Nick Swisher has not played well lately would be a bit of an understatement. The Indians first basemen had been just 2 for 23 since coming off the disabled list, and his season average had fallen to .197. The calls for him to be benched and/or traded were becoming more frequent, and some fans were beginning to call him the worst free agent signing in Cleveland sports history. Baseball is a game of redemption though, and Swisher earned that and silenced some critics when he hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the tenth inning to lead the Indians past the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on a beautiful afternoon at Progressive Field.
This game had been a pitcher’s duel all the way through. Starters Justin Masterson and C.J. Wilson each went seven innings allowing one earned run. The Angels scored in the top of the second inning when Howie Kendrick crossed the plate after Masterson’s ninth wild pitch of the season. The Indians came back in the bottom of the third inning after Yan Gomes doubled, advanced on a fielder’s choice, and scored on Michael Bourn’s groundout.
The scored remained tied at one until the top of the tenth inning. That’s when Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols beat the shift by singling through the right side to score Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout. It looked like the Indians would fall below .500 yet again, but the Tribe was not finished. Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana each walked, but outs by Asdrubal Cabrera and David Murphy had the Indians down to their last at-bat when Swisher came to the plate. Swisher was able to work the count to 2-2 when he drove the pitch by Ernesto Frieri just over the right field wall to win the game and send everyone home happy.
This was arguably the Indians’ biggest win of the season thus far. A loss would have meant the series loss and their record would have fallen below .500. Instead, the Tribe won a series against an Angels team ahead of them in the playoff hunt and improved their record to 37-36. Hopefully Swisher and Santana (three walks today for Carlos) are starting to come around and the Indians can make a concentrated playoff push. While there were some rough defensive plays today, Ryan Raburn also nice catch in right field and threw out Josh Hamilton at second base in the fourth inning. During the top of the fifth inning Carlos Santana fielded a Hank Conger grounder at first, stepped on the bag, and threw David Freese out at second base. While still not pretty, the Indians’ defense has improved lately.
Next up for the Indians are the Detroit Tigers, who come to town tomorrow after finally beating the Kansas City Royals today. The Tigers currently occupy one of the two wildcard spots in the American League, and a strong series against them could put the Indians back in the driver’s seat in this long battle towards the playoffs.