Minnesota Twins spoil Atlanta Braves #DansbyDebut, Hear What He Had To Say

Aug 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) collects his first major league base hit against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) collects his first major league base hit against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Swanson will save us. He just couldn’t save the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night.

On May 25, 1951, a 20-year old Willie Mays went 0-for-5 with a strikeout against the Phillies and the fantastically-named Bubba Church. It was his first Major League game, and probably one of his worst.

On April 6, 2004, Kazuo Matsui went 3-for-3 with a home run and two doubles against a not-quite-washed-up Russ Ortiz and looked like the second coming of Ichiro. It was his first Major League game, and almost definitely his best.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Nero had to play more than a song or two before it burnt to the ground. My point is that regardless of what happened to Dansby Swanson Wednesday night, nothing about his career was going to be defined by how great or how terrible he looked against Kyle Gibson and the Twins.

If you believe in omens, you have to like what Swanson did in his first two at-bats—a second-inning line out to center that was smashed right on the button but right at Eddie Rosario was his first time in a big-league box, and then he smacked a line-drive single through the right side in the fourth for his first big-league hit.

Swanson’s every move was scrutinized Wednesday; his first play in the field, trying to relay the ball back to first after Freddie Freeman went to second for the lead runner on a Gibson sac bunt attempt—a tough play, all things considered—was dissected by Jim and Don like the Zapruder film. His third at-bat in the seventh featured the loudest chant of 2016 (Let’s Go Dansby!) and a crowd that audibly groaned at Dana DeMuth when he had the audacity to issue a called strike on the inside corner against Our Man Dansby.

His final line (2-for-4, two singles, one strikeout) was immaterial; his presence made the night matter, on a grander scale than perhaps more polished prospects like Aaron Blair and Mallex Smith. Dansby Swanson’s debut was an Event. 

There was the rest of the game, notable mostly for maddeningly inconsistent pitching. Mike Foltynewicz had to throw a lot of pitches (100) in a short amount of time (five innings), getting into two-out trouble in the first that led to a pair of Minnesota runs, getting wild in the third (two wild pitches and an Anthony Recker passed ball) and throwing at least five pitches to eight batters over his final three frames.

Mercifully, Folty was able to work out of trouble after the first and Atlanta actually tied it in the third inning thanks to yet another Freeman home run—his career-high 24th and sixth in August. His monthly splits are increasing since a scuffled first two months—even a little lineup protection (Adonis Garcia figuring out how to hit again, Matt Kemp coming into the fold) has paid dividends.

3. 17. 10. 2. Final

(Contrast Folty’s outing with Gibson’s; the lanky righty and his 4.54 career ERA cruised to his first career complete game, scattering eight hits and three earned while striking out six. He had 90 pitches to start the ninth inning–Folty had that mid-way through the fifth.)

Eric O’Flaherty, who came in to relieve Foltynewicz after he was pulled to start the sixth, was welcomed by back-to-back doubles from Rosario and Juan Centeno, then started the seventh with a single to Max Kepler and a walk to Trevor Plouffe. He was taken down for Ian Krol, who promptly threw a wild pitch (poor Recker, what a debacle of a night for him), issued an intentional pass to Kennys Vargas and would surrender run-scoring singles to Rosario, Centeno and Robbie Grossman to turn a tie game into a four-run deficit in the blink of an eye (or a matter of seven outs, give and/or take).

Jason Hursh got smacked around pretty good in the top of the ninth, but by that point the writing was on the wall. His 20.25 ERA is not too spiffy after 1.1 career innings. Ryan Weber gave up two more runs and my goodness, this got out of hand after Folty left, what a fiasco.

(Late bright spot: Nick Markakis goes yard again! He’s got eight on the year now. The pop is coming around. Come on Baltimore, Coppy’s waiting on your offer.)

But as the year’s pass, I doubt we’ll remember the final score (10-3) or the command issues (nine walks, three wild pitches and a passed ball in all) that went into Aug. 17, 2016—I hope (think?) we’ll remember it as #DansbyDay, the day that a lineup mainstay made his debut and gave fans a day-to-day beacon of the much hoped for return to glory.

Next: No... no, this is fine.

Aug. 18, 2016 won’t have quite the same affect, probably because we just saw a version of it—Thursday’s contest will feature Rob Whalen for the Braves and Reynaldo Lopez for Washington, the same guys who toed the rubber in last Saturday’s 7-6 win for the division-leading Nationals.