Right fielder turned fill-in first baseman Nick Swisher is showing signs of breaking out of a September slump that saw him go 0-for-Baltimore-and-Tampa Bay to begin the current 10-game road trip through the American League East.
Swisher was 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles Wednesday night as the New York Yankees kept pace with the Baltimore Orioles atop the division with a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox. That comes on the heels of a 2-for-5 night with a double in Tuesday night’s series-opening 4-3 loss at Boston.
The 5-for-10 start to the series comes at a big time for Swisher and the Yankees.
With Mark Teixeira out for another seven-to-11 days after re-aggravating his injured calf, Swisher becomes the best option for New York at first base.
While he’s no Teixeira with the glove at first base, Swisher was a regular first baseman in the major leagues with the Oakland Athletics in 2006, the season he slugged a career-high 35 home runs.
But it’s possible the defensive adjustment back to the infield after playing right field almost exclusively since coming to New York in 2009 was affecting him at the plate.
Swisher was a dismal 0-for-28 to open the road trip and entered the series in Boston in a 3-for-45 funk, with no homers and three RBI. The swoon dropped his average from .278 to .255.
The New York Post piled on Swisher a bit on Tuesday, linking his recent slump to his lack of playoff production as a Yankee, using the word “unclutch” (if that’s even a real word) in the headline.
According to his page at Baseball-reference.com, Swisher was 6-for-47 (.128) with one homer and two RBI during the Yankees’ run to the World Series title in 2009. He followed that up by going 6-for-34 (.176) with two homers and two RBI while New York beat the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series and lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS in 2010. In last season’s ALDS loss to the Detroit Tigers, Swisher was 4-for-19 (.211) with a homer and one RBI.
Add it up, and as a Yankee postseason performer, Swisher is 16-for-100 (yeah, it’s only .160) with four home runs and five RBI. It’s not exactly going to remind anyone of October heroes of yore, such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson.
Swisher told the Post he isn’t worried about past performances.
“I’m at the point in my career where people know what type of hitter I am and what I’m capable of doing,” Swisher said. “I don’t have to prove anything, but I would like to contribute a little more. When you’re going through stuff like this [slump], it’s not fun.”
If Teixeira is going to be out or limited heading to the playoffs, provided the Yankees get there, New York would certainly like to see Nick Swisher contribute a little more.
Hitting better than .160 in October would be a nice start.