- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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CHICAGO -- The only way Nick Swisher's Sunday night could have turned out any better is if the ball he hit out of Wrigley Field somehow smashed through Ozzie Guillen's windshield.
Here, in the town of his worst baseball humiliation, Swisher returned to have a night of triumph. On Father's Day, in the city where his dad, Steve Swisher, played four of his nine big league seasons, Nick Swisher struck the blow that made the Yankees' first trip to Chicago's North Side since 2003 a success.
"It's great, man," said Swisher, who after a period of uncharacteristic melancholy -- the period in May when his average dropped to .204 and he was benched for two days against right-handed pitching -- seems back to his loquacious old self. "I can't wait to call him after this. I talked to him a little bit earlier today. Dads are so instrumental in baseball, for me. To have a father who's been there, done that, and enjoyed every second of it, I love him, he's my hero, he's my idol, and to be able to give him this gift, it's just a great day for me."
Not so for Guillen, the manager with whom he clashed during his one unhappy season as a member of the Chicago White Sox. "Everything that happened when I was here, obviously it didn't go the way I wanted it to," Swisher said. "To be able to get out of here on a good note, kinda that what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, kinda just go off that last game, it feels great."
Wrigley Field felt a lot like Yankee Stadium Midwest all weekend, but never as much as Sunday night, when fans in the bleachers actually performed a version of the roll call that highlights the first inning of every Yankees home game. As he always does, Swisher acknowledged the chants of his name with a military-type salute.
And after he hit Chris Carpenter's 2-0 fastball practically to Waveland Ave. -- batting lefty! -- to bust open a 4-4 game, many of the fans saluted him with an exaggerated bow, which he eagerly returned.
"They deserve it," he said of the many Yankees fans who made their way to the historic old ballpark where Babe Ruth is believed to have called his shot in the 1932 World Series.
This time, it was CC Sabathia who tried to call his shot -- he had predicted he would "go Waveland" before the game and warmed up for it by smacking his last three batting practice pitches into the right-field seats -- but failed dismally in trying to make good on his boast, going 0-for-3 with a dribbler in front of the plate, a weak fly out to left and an even weaker hack at a curveball for a strikeout in the sixth.
"I've been getting crushed in there," he said of his teammates, who were merciless in their postgame heckling. "You know me, I didn't go in to watch the pitches I was throwing, I went in to see my three at-bats."
Luckily, he did his best work on the mound, settling down after getting hit hard over the first three innings -- the big blow was a three-run homer by Alfonso Soriano, who owns Sabathia with six homers in 39 career at-bats -- to retire 12 of his last 13 batters before leaving after seven innings.
"It doesn't seem to matter how many runs he gives up, he's going to go seven, eight, nine innings for us every time," Swisher said. "It sounds a little crazy, but that's what we've come to expect every time he takes the mound. It could have gotten out of hand, but he didn't let it get away."
Swisher wasn't the only hitting star of the night. Brett Gardner led off the game by hitting Randy Wells' third pitch into the left-field seats. He had two other hits, including a double in the Yankees' three-run ninth. Alex Rodriguez scored three runs and recorded three hits, including a double that would have been a triple had he not paused to admire it from the batter's box. Mark Teixeira had an RBI double and Curtis Granderson an RBI triple, and David Robertson performed one of his customary escape jobs in the eighth inning, when it was still a three-run game.
But the night belonged to Swisher, who a month ago probably would have been called back to the dugout as soon as the Cubs brought in a right-hander and turned him around.
Now, it was Swisher turning things around, in the ballgame, and in the town that for one season at least, made baseball seem a little less fun to play.
One day after getting steamrolled in a collision at the plate, Russell Martin got whacked with a bat on the follow through on the side of the head that left a knot above his ear and had him wearing an ice-pack between innings. "I've had worse," he said. Joe Girardi said he would check with Martin before Monday night's game in Cincinnati before putting him in the lineup. Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to eight games. Mariano Rivera was preparing to close the game but after the Yankees tacked on three runs in the ninth, Mo sat down and Jeff Marquez got the final three outs, but not before allowing the Cubs to load the bases on two singles and a bizarre error in which a ball to third took a bad hop and hit Ramiro Pena in the chest. But Soriano, with a chance to cut the lead to 10-7, flied out to end the game. Ivan Nova (6-4, 4.46) opens the three-game series with the Reds, facing RHP Johnny Cueto (4-2, 1.68). First pitch at 7:10 p.m.
A former White Sox, Nick Swisher conquered his Chicago demons Sunday.