Let's keep this short and to the point, as I have to board a plane this morning to take me to an anniversary for the event for the newspaper that took a fresh-faced youngster and set him on the path to become the hideous monster you see before you today. This is sort of like Darth Vader going off to hang with some of his old Sith buddies.
Game 28: A's 5, Devil Rays 2
Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- J. Duchscherer (3-1) LP -- G. Glover (0-2) S -- H. Street (8)
Went Deep: Dukes (4), Swisher (5)
Your Diablo Creek Merlot Star of the Game: I imagine that some people read my contributions to this blog and think, "Man, Phil, is there a member of the A's you even like?" Actually, I imagine it's more like people read my contributions and think, "Boy, I hope Ken will post something soon," but play along, OK? Anyhow, yes -- while I rant and rave about the Jason Kendalls and the Jay Witasicks and their ilk, there are members of the A's who not only don't make me cringe in horror but actually fill me with this weird sensation I can only guess is optimism. Or gas.
Anyhow -- Milton Bradley. Love the way he plays. Love having him on the team. Who else? Well, none other than tonight's star of the game, Nick Swisher.
It wasn't always so. The past couple of years, I've felt varying degrees of frustration about Swisher and his approach at the plate. I refer you to this item I wrote two years ago in which Kenny Chesney of all people criticizes Swisher's two-strike approach in a June 15, 2005 game against the Mets.
Kenny Chesney! The country music singer! And he was right! Swisher, heal thyself.
Well, Swisher has. I've noticed this year he's cut down on swinging wildly for the fences when a base hit will do -- it's getting to the point where the few times he has done this (like when he had yet to hit home run No. 1 and was pressing touch), it really stands out. I don't have the time before my flight to verify this, but it seems like he's doing a better job of hitting in two-strike or two-out situations, particularly with runners on.
Take Friday's game. Swisher hit the decisive three-run homer on a 2-2 count after Brian Stokes made him look silly with a pair of change-ups. And yes, Swisher swung for the fences when a base hit might have also done the trick, but take a gander at the thought process -- and yes, I'm alarmed as you are that Nick Swisher has a thought process -- as described in this morning's Chronicle.
Simply calling time brought Swisher another chorus of boos -- but he settled back in and crushed the next pitch from Stokes on a line into the stands in right. That three-run blast, coming in Swisher's first game back after missing a week and a half with a hamstring strain, gave the A's a 5-2 victory over the Devil Rays.
"When you get in that situation, 2-2 at the time and the crowd just going crazy, my thought was to get my composure back,'' Swisher said. "And the Nasty Boys were all over my case. ... I was really trying to get my emotions down, especially with me being a hyper guy -- I'd go through the roof.''
Swisher said that the scouting report on Stokes was that he throws hard, so he was looking for a fastball. Stokes threw two changeups, however, and Swisher missed with big hacks.
"He screwed me into the ground,'' Swisher said.
Then he got the fastball at last, and put it out of reach with his two-strike stroke.
So yeah, I like Nick Swisher because I see him as not only improving, but actively working to do so. It makes me think there's hope for the rest of us.
Well, not you, Jason Kendall.
The Turning Point: Laziness would make me cite the Swisher home run, but how's about the two-on, no-out situation in the bottom of the seventh where Dan Haren retired the Devil Rays without allowing a runner to score. If he doesn't keep the 2-2 tie intact, then perhaps Swisher's ninth-inning heroics don't happen.
Dreaded Larry Davis Sighting: Actually, the health news is not as unnerving as usual. Swisher was back on the field after missing nine games. Bradley is on pace to come off the DL Tuesday when eligible. Esteban Loaiza got moved to the 60-Day DL, but that's an administrative move to make room for the newly acquired Jack Cust on the 40-man roster; Loaiza was unlikely to be ready to pitch much before the first week of June anyhow. And speaking of newly acquired players, Chris Snelling managed to take the field -- and even score -- without requiring medical attention. So there's that.
Of Interest Perhaps Only to Me: The Nasty Boys Nick Swisher refers to in the Chronicle article up above are a former professional wrestling tag team, led by Brian Knobbs who have apparently retired to the St. Petersburg area and spend their leisure hours making a scene at Devil Ray games. I know this because my brother-in-law also lives in the St. Petersburg area and has spent nine innings seated in the vicinity of Mr. Knobbs, who he says is a good egg.