Friday, June 5, 2015

Swihart Swats First Career HR

Swihart's solo shot was a titanic blast onto Lansdowne Street (Fox Sports)
One of the few Red Sox highlights from Boston's ugly 8-4 loss to the Twins yesterday was that Blake Swihart launched the first of what will hopefully be many home runs for the rookie catcher..

With two outs and nobody on, Swihart snapped a 22-game and 75 at-bat homerless streak to begin his career in the bottom of the third. Facing Twins starter Tommy Milone for the second time that day, Swihart laid off two close pitches to put himself up 2-0 in the count. The lefty's third pitch was a mistake, right over the heart of the plate, and Swihart crushed it. His first career blast was a moonshot, clearing the Monster seats and landing 406 feet from home plate. It was a no-doubter, an absolute bomb.

Unfortunately the bases were empty when he left the yard, so it only counted as one. Swihart's blast put the Sox up 3-0, but Boston was unable to hold the lead and ultimately dropped the series finale to Minnesota. It also made him the youngest Sox catcher to go deep since Rich Gedman, a two-time All-Star with Boston, belted his first dinger at the age of 21 during the strike-shortened 1981 season.

The long ball continued a recent resurgence at the plate for Swihart, who has now hit safely in eight of his last nine games. His batting line is still a lowly .218/.247/.295 on the season, but that marks a huge improvement over where it stood just a few weeks ago. The 23 year-old is barely a month into his major league career, after all, and in a perfect world would still be getting additional seasoning down in Pawtucket. But with Christian Vazquez out for the season and Ryan Hanigan sidelined until at least the All-Star Break, Swihart's been thrust into a starting role much sooner than expected. He's learning on the job and experiencing natural growing pains that come with that, which might be more magnified because catchers usually take longer to develop than other position players.

For all of Swihart's struggles at the dish, he's still a better hitter than Boston's other backstop, Sandy Leon. Leon is batting a mere .170 with two RBI on the season and has yet to notch an extra base hit in 57 plate appearances. If Swihart's overmatched, Leon's totally helpless, and it's not like Hanigan was Mike Piazza, either. Catcher has been an offensive black hole for the Sox all season, so it would certainly be nice if Swihart started hitting.

Then again, it would be really nice if every other Red Sock not named Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts started hitting too.

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