Welcome to the party, Nick Swisher.
The outfielder cracked his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the seventh, to lead the Yankees to a 12-3 rout of the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night.
The home run that hugged the right field foul pole before settling in the second deck was part of a slump-busting 3-for-4, four-RBI night and as well as Swisher’s first three-hit game since his average was at .364 after April 3. Since that game, Swisher also went nine games without driving in a run while getting five hits in 38 at-bats, causing him to press as the batting average dropped near the “Mendoza Line” of .200.
“I’ve been worrying about it,” admitted Swisher, who hit 29 home runs last year. “I’ve been trying to hit it for a week now.”
Besides ending the RBI drought and getting out of the slump, Swisher also snapped a hitless skid of 19 at-bats that equaled a career worst set when he played for Ozzie Guillen three years ago. The capper though, was ending a 75 at-bat drought without hitting a home run that was his longest to begin any of his eight seasons.
Swisher was thinking home run right from the outset and it was evident in the third when the Yankees had the bases loaded. He took a home run swing and weakly fouled off a full count slider before starting his four-RBI night with a walk.
“Oh yeah, absolutely, absolutely, I can’t lie to you guys,” Swisher said. “I definitely tried to do it on a ball that bounced before it hit the plate.”
“It was hard for me to tell if he was frustrated that he wasn’t getting any hits or he wasn’t hitting any home runs,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Swisher still had the home run on his mind in the fifth, an inning that began with the Yankees up 2-0 despite not getting any hits off Jackson. Twenty two minutes into the inning, the Yankees were up 8-0 with nobody out and Swisher knocked Jackson out by lining a slider to right field.
The most productive Yankee inning at home began with Brett Gardner’s third home run. It also featured Curtis Granderson’s RBI triple to go with Alex Rodriguez’s run-scoring double off the right field wall, Russell Martin’s soft single to left and Jorge Posada’s bases-loaded walk.
“I think they really started eating at me, especially when Gardy started going deep,” Swisher said.
The Yankees reached eight runs for the fourth time and hit that mark after scoring five runs in this series. During the last night three nights, the Yankees wasted two outstanding pitching performances by A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova by going 13-for-87 (.149) with 22 strikeouts and six walks.
This time, they did not waste CC Sabathia’s latest outstanding outing of three unearned runs and seven hits. Sabathia had plenty left to begin the eighth but the 32 minutes he spent in the cage keeping active while his teammates piled on were enough reason for Girardi to give him the final two innings off.
Sabathia’s outing also continued a positive trend for Yankee starters. It was the fifth consecutive game a starter held the opponent to one earned run or less and that is the longest streak since opening 2002 that way.
“You never want to be the guy, no matter what anybody says,” Sabathia said. “You know guys have been pitching good and getting deep into the games and giving the bullpen a rest. You want to try to repeat that every time out.”
Yankee-White Sox Notes:
Swisher’s locker is in the same corridor of the clubhouse as Gardner’s. Though the Yankee left fielder is still hitting under .200, Swisher believes Gardner is going turn it around.
“I’m so happy for him,” Swisher said. “Gardy’s the type of guy that’s not necessarily a home run hitter, but he’s really hitting line drives that are leaving the ballpark. To me, I think that goes to show that he’s back, for sure.”
Swisher is hitting .316 (18-for-57) against the White Sox since becoming a Yankee.
The Yankees became the first team to have the first nine hitters reach in an inning since the Indians on June 9, 2010 at Boston. The last time the Yankees did it was July 13, 2002 at Cleveland.
Kevin Millwood’s last start before he can opt out and become a free agent May 1 was not a good one. Pitching for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Millwood gave up six runs and seven hits in two innings at Charlotte. He threw 54 pitches and also allowed two home runs.