Other than "use two hands!" it's the oldest axiom in baseball: Always run it out, because you never know. Cleveland Indians slugger Nick Swisher thought he knew on Monday night that his nubber in the eighth inning would stay foul. He didn't even take a full step toward first base after making contact, Swisher was so sure.
Swisher was wrong and it cost him an infield single with the score tied. And some embarrassment.
Detroit Tigers catcher Brayan Peña followed Swisher's weakly hit ball up the third-base line as it rolled in the dirt — in foul territory, but rolling nonetheless — as Swisher stayed in the general vicinity of the batter's box. Swisher even appeared to turn away from the play as the ball spun back into fair territory.
Peña kept an eye on Swisher, too, and once the ball was fair for sure, he picked it up and ran giddily, for perhaps 30 feet, and tagged out Swisher.
"Oh, my goodness — that is so beautiful, Brayan Peña," Tigers TV analyst Rod Allen said.
A terrific head's up play by Peña. And where was Swisher's head? Up somewhere.
It's one thing to give up on a play because you're "sure" a ball will go foul. It's another to turn away when a ball is still live. It's still another to have no idea how your foul lines are tailored. It's no accident the ball acted like it did; Cleveland's grounds crew obviously tills the dirt so bunts that are hit up the line tend to kick fair. Terry Francona probably told them to do it that way because of the makeup of Cleveland's lineup. If Swisher is paying attention — not just Monday, but at all — he should know this and use potentially use it as part of the home-field advantage at Progressive Field. And he plays first base, for crying out loud. But no. He couldn't be bothered to use the intelligence. He couldn't be bothered to run it out.
Some people don't like booing, especially of hometown players, but if there ever was a moment when it was OK, it was then. Swisher signed a $56 million contract with the Indians in the offseason, though he has yet to have that kind of impact on the team. There have been some mitigating circumstances, like injury, but there's every reason to think he'll hit better in the second half. He's at least trying to make up for a disappointing start with Brohio T-shirts.
Boohio is more like it.
Who knows how Swisher reaching first base at that point impacts the game? The Tigers beat the Indians 4-2 in 10 innings. Swisher went 2 for 5 on the night, but he also fell rounding third base. Embarrassing, but in a Three Stooges way. And forgivable. But man, the third-base line just hates him.
Big BLS H/N: @Jay_Jaffe (for "D'Ohio")