No one can deny that Dansby Swanson has been a big disappointment so far in 2017. His BA has mostly been below the Mendoza line, and his defense hasn’t made anyone forget our late departed Simba.
Well, he silenced those critics last night, didn’t he? Seriously, Dansby did have a helluva game; his performance was the difference between a win and a loss. It turned out to be an unlikely pitcher’s duel—a matchup of two struggling starters, Julio Teheran and Matt Harvey, in the new Launching Pad (Cobb County edition). The Bravos were training 1-0 in the bottom of the 6th when Swanson scorched a two-out, two run scoring double to left. To show what little respect Dansby has garnered among opposing teams, the Mets had intentionally walked Danny Santana (!) just ahead of Swanson.
The Mets tied it in the top of the 7th on a Travis D’Arnaud homer. It remained tied until the bottom of the 9th, when Swanson hit a routine single up the middle. At least Curtis Granderson thought it was a single and did what center fielders routinely do on such hits. Dansby never stopped running, though, and slid safely into second just ahead of Granderson’s hurried throw into second. So the winning run is on second with one out. Young Rio Ruiz pinch hits for the pitcher. Terry Collins did what any competent manager would do and brought in a lefty to face Ruiz. Snit showed a lot of confidence in Ruiz and let him face the lefty (perhaps because Teheran was unavailable as a right handed pinch hitter). Rio hung in against the lefty and hit a groundball through the opposite side. Dansby raced home and the celebration ensued.
In addition to his offensive heroics, Swanson made a couple of terrific plays in the field, one a diving grab to his left and another throwing out a runner after going to his knees in the hole. Someone asked in the game thread if Swanson is coming around. Who knows? For what it’s worth, I think we will continue to see improvement at the plate. I’m not making predictions, but I’ll guess his BA ends up somewhere between last year’s .302 and his current .215 (which is a lot better than it was when this month began). I do love the way Swanson runs the bases. He never trots, and he seems to have a great sense of when he can take the extra base.
The other big story of the game is the start by Julio. Only one run, that a solo homer by Granderson, in 6 innings. That makes four very good starts in a row by Braves pitchers. The weak link all year for this team has been the starting pitching. Actually, another weak link has been the performance of the some of the bullpen. Not singling anyone out, but they throw with their left arms and the names begin with K and O. Last night, Snit brought in both EOF and Krol in leveraged situations to face left handed batters, and both got the job done. If the Braves can get these kinds of efforts going forward, this team may strengthen its hold on second place! Don’t scoff at that—we are ahead of the Mets, and that is a decided blessing in a troubled time.
Speaking of pitching, today marks the major league debut of Sean Newcomb. I’m excited to see him. As you all know, he has perhaps the best pure stuff of any of the Braves thousand or so pitching prospects. He also can be reminiscent of another Nuke, namely Laloosh, in his inability to find the strike zone. Let’s hope instead he has a career like an earlier Newk, the great Don Newcombe. In his career, Don Newcombe won the ROY, MVP, and Cy Young awards. He also led the league in fewest walks per nine innings three times, averaging fewer than 2 walks per 9 innings. Something to shoot for!
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