What slump? Swisher finally busts loose

After 4-for-36 start, switch-hitter's homer, double give Yankees a big lift in Game 3 win

Originally Published: October 31, 2009
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- He found out the news from his manager Thursday afternoon in the clubhouse. Nick Swisher wouldn't play in Game 2 of the World Series, and it was what he called a "heartbreaking" decision.

But Swisher didn't sulk or complain and accepted his benching. Perhaps the time off was helpful, because in his return to the starting lineup Saturday night, Swisher homered, doubled and scored two runs in the New York Yankees' 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The dormant Yankees offense, which scored only three earned runs in the first two games, came alive with home runs by Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui, helping New York go up two games to one in the World Series.

As for Swisher, he finally emerged from his 4-for-36 playoff slump.

"All the struggles kept piling on," he said. "It was rough, it was very difficult, but to get by that and have a game like tonight was extremely gratifying."

His feelings were clear as soon as he entered the postgame interview room. Swisher had a flip camera and was filming his experience in the limelight.

"I want to remember this," he said.

Just how badly was Swisher slumping? If he had not had another at-bat this postseason, his .114 batting average entering Saturday night's game would have been the second-worst single-season average in Yankees postseason history (with a minimum of 25 plate appearances). Willie Randolph hit .097 in 1976.

[+] EnlargeNick Swisher
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonNick Swisher's home run in Game 3 was his first since Sept. 30.
The last time Swisher had an extra-base hit in the 2009 postseason was in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Minnesota. He had just one RBI and a .205 on-base percentage. That's why manager Joe Girardi decided to sit him in Game 2 against Pedro Martinez in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr.

Girardi told Swisher to watch and enjoy the game. It turns out that's exactly what Swisher needed, even if he was unhappy about it at first.

"I'm an emotional guy; you definitely know what I'm thinking," he said. "I wear my heart on my sleeve. … It was nice for my head to just rest and enjoy that game."

When asked before the game why he decided to start Swisher in Game 3, Girardi said he thought the switch-hitting Swisher's at-bats against lefties had been good, even if they weren't producing hits.

After the game Girardi said players tend to get tired this time of year, and he thought Swisher needed the rest.

"He went to work hard," Girardi said. "He came out and swung the bat very well right-handed for us tonight."

Hitting seventh, Swisher flied out to right field in his first at-bat with Jorge Posada on first base to end the second inning. But the next time he faced Phillies starter Cole Hamels, this time leading off the fifth, he didn't miss. After quickly falling behind 0-2, Swisher drew the count even at 2-2 and then smacked a 73 mph curveball down the left-field line for a double.

It was the beginning of a three-run inning, and he eventually came around when Andy Pettitte -- of all players -- hit a bloop RBI single to center field.

Even though Hamels was out of the game by the sixth inning, it did not matter to Swisher. Down two strikes against rookie left-hander J.A. Happ, Swisher evened the count before hitting a 92 mph fastball out of the park to left field.

"Everything he did helped a lot, the home run, the double," Posada said. "It gives us a chance to turn over the lineup.''

Even though much was made about Swisher's horrendous output throughout the postseason, he was still leading the team in pitches per plate appearance (4.58). First baseman Mark Teixeira was second with 4.25 entering Saturday night's game. In fact, Swisher was averaging more pitches seen this postseason than he did during the regular season, 4.26, which still led the Yankees and was second in the American League to Boston's Kevin Youkilis (4.41).

"I've always been a guy that tries and takes pitches and sees as many pitches as I can," Swisher said. "I think the best compliment you can have as a hitter is, 'He's a tough out.' I never got myself into a situation where I was rolling over on the first pitch. So even through the tough times and the no base hits and the [4-for-36], I still felt like I wanted to bring my best at-bat to the plate every time."

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. You can reach her at amy.k.nelson@espn3.com.