When Nick Swisher stepped to the plate with one out and runners on second and third in the 10th inning Thursday night, he was thinking only about hitting a sacrifice fly.
“Absolutely, that’s all I’m trying to do,” Swisher said. “I’m not trying to get a base hit right there. I’ve got to hit that ball in the air right there.”
And that’s what Swisher did, driving in the game-winning run in the Yankees' 6-5 victory over the Orioles by flying out to rightfield. But this came after Swisher made an abrupt switch to his gameplan at the plate.
Standing in the on-deck circle, Swisher felt he received a strong firsthand scouting report on pitcher Mike Gonzalez, watching intently as the lefthander threw five consecutive 94-mph fastballs to Robinson Cano. On Gonzalez’s fifth pitch, the Yankees second baseman lined out to shortstop for the first out.
Seeing all those fastballs, Swisher expected more of the same. Yet Gonzalez’s first pitch to Swisher was an 82-mph slider, catching him off guard.
“I said, ‘Man, I really need to stay back and try to get something up in the zone a little bit,’” Swisher said.
His instincts were right. Gonzalez followed with another slider and mistakenly left it a couple of inches higher than he wanted, and Swisher lifted it to rightfield for the game-winning sacrifice fly.
“I’ve been given some opportunities with runners in scoring position and I haven’t really gotten the job done,” said Swisher, who entered the game 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. “To be able to do that it that situation was huge for me.”