It’s Nick Swisher Day here at BroningRiverBaseball.com as his old team, the New York Yankees come into town. The Yankees are playing about .500 baseball and are stuck in third in the East (essentially the same position the Indians are at in the Central), but this series will feature a few high points in addition to the joy inherent in simply playing against the Yankees. Prior to the first game, Derek Jeter and Mike Hegan will be honored on the field. Hegan played five of his 17 seasons with the Yankees after his father played 14 for the Indians. After retiring, Mike began an announcing career with the Indians spanning from 1989 through 2011 spending time on both radio and TV. He died during the off-season and is deserving of recognition as both he and his father were huge parts of Indians history.
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Jeter is vastly overrated defensively, stealing five Gold Gloves over his career, despite being one of the worst defensive short stops over the past decade. He is also just about to steal a starting All-Star spot from a much more deserving player like Alexei Ramirez of Chicago, just because he is retiring. For some reason he is being given the same amount of respect as Mike Hegan from the Indians and the city of Cleveland.
Game 1: Monday, July 7th, 7:10 PM EDT (tickets)
TBD vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 4-5, 5.16 ERA
Former Indians 48th round pick, Vidal Nuno, was originally scheduled to make this start, but he has since been traded to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. The Yankees have yet to announce a new starter. It could be McCarthy, although he would normally be pitching on the 8th. Tanaka could move up to take this spot with McCarthy pitching the next day or the Yankees could go with a minor leaguer for a spot start. Either way, Nick Swisher is ready for all contingencies and will bring his ‘A’ game no matter who is on the mound.
Masterson has went last than five innings in three of his last four starts, the most recent coming against the Dodgers when he gave up three runs on seven hits in three innings. He looked a little better than his stat line would appear as seven strike outs added to a high pitch count early.
Game 2: Tuesday, July 8th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, 12-3, 2.27 ERA vs Trevor Bauer, RHP, 2-4, 4.42 ERA
The Indians will get a preview of the All-Star game a week early when they face Masahiro Tanaka for the first time, one of three pitchers that are favorites to start the game along with Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez. Tanaka is also a strong contender for the Rookie of the Year, along with Jose Abreu, since Major League Baseball’s arrogance won’t allow them to admit that the NPB is a professional league. Tanaka pitched in that league for seven years before coming to the USA and was named the MVP in 2013, making it possible for him to be the first Japanese player to win the MVP, then the MLB Cy Young in consecutive seasons.
If you are looking for consistency, look no further than Trevor Bauer. He has allowed three or four runs in each of his past six starts while pitching between 5.1 and 6.1 innings each game. His two four run games came against Detroit and Texas, both impressive offenses that have to be considered a step above the current Yankees. Of course with Tanaka on the other side, it might not matter how many runs Bauer allows.
Game 3: Wednesday, July 9th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Chase Whitley, RHP, 3-2, 5.14 ERA vs Josh Tomlin, RHP, 5-6, 4.11 ERA
Whitley has never had the honor of pitching to or in front of Nick Swisher as the 25 year old will be making just his 11th career start in his rookie season. Like the majority of the Yankees staff, he has struggled this year, not being able to get past the fourth in his last three starts. In those starts, he allowed four home runs and 17 runs total against the Blue Jays, Twins and Red Sox. Swisher should have little trouble with the first year player as all five of his home runs have come against right handers and he is also hitting 30 points higher against them than against lefties.
As often happens the game after a pitcher throws his first career complete game, Tomlin looked more than a little tired his last time out. While the Royals took him for five runs in 5.2 innings, his actual expectations should lie somewhere between that and the one hitter against the Mariners. While the Yankees are not the powerhouse they once were, they no longer have Nick Swisher, they still have Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury and can’t be underestimated.
Game 4: Thursday, July 10th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
David Phelps, RHP, 3-4, 4.01 ERA vs T.J. House, LHP, 0-2, 4.28 ERA
Nick Swisher has played against Phelps twice, both in 2013. In the first game of a double header on May 13th, Swisher went 0/3 with two strike outs. On June 4th, he repeated the effort, going 0/3 again with one more K and a double play.
What we saw from House his last three times out is likely what can be expected on a regular basis. He gives up a lot of hits, but limits damage because most are ground balls and almost none go for extra bases. He also can’t be expected to strike out many, but if the defense behind him plays like they did on Saturday, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Nick’s Hot - Nick’s Not
This week in positive Swisher, Nick has been announced as a nominee for the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. This is his second nomination for the award that is given to one player, a Hall of Famer and a Navy Chief Petty Officer in Bob Feller’s name each season, starting in 2013.
In negative Swisher, this week has been pretty much like every other for Swisher this year. He batted 4/18 with four RBI and just one extra base hit. Worst of all, he has continued striking out at an alarming rate with eight of his 14 outs coming via the K while walking just three times.
On Deck: After Nick Swisher makes the Yankees regret ever letting him go, the Tribe will take on the White Sox for three to end the first half of the 2014 season.