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Nick Swisher might be out of the Yankees' lineup

Outfielder is batting only .103 in the postseason. Brett Gardner would take his spot.

October 24, 2009|Ben Bolch and Kevin Baxter

NEW YORK — Nick Swisher opened a box of bats Friday at his clubhouse locker that were heavier than the ones he has used so far this postseason.

If he's lucky, he might get to use one.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi acknowledged Friday that the slumping Swisher may not be in the starting lineup for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series tonight at Yankee Stadium.

"We'll sleep on it and we'll make a decision what we're going to do," Girardi said. "Obviously he has struggled. But Swisher is a good player and Swisher has done a lot of good things for us this year."

Just not in Game 5 on Thursday. Swisher popped up a full-count pitch from Brian Fuentes with the bases loaded for the last out in a 7-6 loss to the Angels that forced the ALCS back to New York with the Yankees still one win away from the World Series.

Brett Gardner, who has two hits in three postseason at-bats off the bench, could take Swisher's place in right field.

Swisher is hitting .103 in eight playoff games with one extra-base hit and one run batted in. That double and RBI came in the Yankees' playoff opener 17 days ago and the switch-hitter has only two hits in the ALCS, and is 0 for his last 11.

"It's just one of those things," Swisher said. "Maybe these guys have got my number right now."

Swisher hit .249 with 29 homers and 82 runs batted in during the regular season. He's hitting only .238 in his career against Angels' Game 6 starter Joe Saunders, a lefty.

Gardner, a speedy left-handed hitter, batted .270 in 108 games during the regular season but has never faced Saunders.

Aside from the possible benching of Swisher and Jorge Posada's return to the lineup to catch scheduled starter Andy Pettitte, Girardi isn't planning any other changes. Although the Yankees lost two of the three ALCS games in Anaheim -- one in the 11th inning and the other in dramatic fashion when the teams combined for nine runs in a roller coaster seventh inning that lasted 49 minutes -- there was no sense of panic at Friday's Yankee Stadium workout.

"I don't think anybody really feels like we're pinned up against the wall. We're back here. We love playing here," said Pettitte, who, with a win tonight would not only give the Yankees the American League pennant but would also become the winningest pitcher in playoff history.

"We want to win and close this thing out. These guys also are a good team and we know it's going to be a battle and hopefully we can come out and get a win and get this series over with."

The Yankees were a baseball-best 57-24 at home during the regular season. And they're 4-0 at Yankee Stadium in the postseason.

"I think the feeling is go out and win a game tomorrow," Girardi said after Friday's workout.

The last time the Yankees were within a win of the World Series was 2004, when they lost four in a row to the Boston Red Sox, the most monumental playoff collapse in baseball history.

"I've never been on a team that, you know, that you sense panic," Girardi said. "The interesting thing about our game is you do it over and over and over. And you learn how to try to stay on that even keel.

"That's one thing that you're taught . . . if your emotions get too high you'll drain yourself."

In fact Swisher, who admitted the long flight home from Anaheim was a difficult one, may have unwittingly found a silver lining to the black cloud that hovered over him and the Yankees in California. When the Yankees pulled to within eight outs of the league title Thursday, workers at Angel Stadium began to put the champagne and beer on ice in preparation for the postgame celebration in the visitor's clubhouse.

But after Swisher's game-ending popup, the party was postponed.

"This would be a great place to win," Swisher said from in front of his locker in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse. "We're here at home, we feel best here."


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