Struggling Swisher gets a reprieve
Amid the unmistakable background noise of rain pelting the dugout ceiling and thunder rumbling in the sky, Nick Swisher was taking dozens of swings in the nearby indoor hitting cage, looking for the stroke that has eluded him this postseason.
To the Yankees' struggling rightfielder, last night's rainout came as welcome news.
"For a guy like me, this is good, because it's one more day," Swisher said about an hour after American League Championship Series Game 6 was officially postponed to tonight. "I've been working the last few days and I really feel like everything is turning around."
Joe Girardi feels the same way. A day after saying he was going to sleep on whether to pull Swisher and his .118 ALCS average from the lineup, Girardi decided against such a move.
So when Girardi revealed the lineup Saturday afternoon, Swisher was in his usual spot, batting eighth and in rightfield.
"We've had some talks the last couple of days," Swisher said. "Obviously, I know this is not going as well as I'd like it to, but you know what? Hey, you've got to keep battling. You've got to keep rolling."
Swisher is 2-for-17 in this series after going 1-for-12 against the Twins in the ALDS. Most recently, he made the final out of the Yankees' 7-6 loss in Game 5, popping up to shortstop Erick Aybar with the bases loaded on a very hittable 3-and-2 fastball from closer Brian Fuentes.
Girardi said he took something positive out of that fruitless at-bat, pointing to the fact that Swisher was back doing what he does best - working the count. Fuentes jumped ahead 0-and-2, but Swisher fought back until it was full.
Girardi sees that as a sign that Swisher could be ready to break through. Swisher certainly hopes so.
"This is the biggest stage, the postseason in New York, where there's no better place to play," Swisher said. "You want to go out there and you want to do so well. Maybe I'm pressing too much. Skip said the other day, 'Just be yourself. You had a great year. Just keep doing the things you're normally used to doing.' "
As Girardi debated whether to keep Swisher in the lineup, he reminded himself that the same questions were being asked about Johnny Damon after he went 1-for-12 in the ALDS, and Damon has had a productive ALCS at the plate.
It worked out well. Girardi (2-for-3) tripled to center off Greg Maddux and scored on Derek Jeter's single to ignite a three-run inning that carried the Yankees to a 3-2 win and the world championship.
So 13 years later, Girardi isn't ready to give up on one of his regulars.
"Swisher has been an everyday rightfielder that has put up good numbers for us," Girardi said. "Yeah, he's struggled, but he's had some good at-bats . . . We're sticking with him."
Of all the supportive messages Swisher has received during his slump, one text message stood out. It was a quote attributed to Babe Ruth that said, "It's hard to beat up a guy who never quits."
Said Swisher, "I'm just going to keep battling, keep grinding. It's going to turn. It's got to."