Swanson emerging as key bat in potent lineup

Shortstop homers, drives in 3 runs in Sunday’s win vs. Tigers

June 2nd, 2019

ATLANTA -- couldn’t care less that he’s on pace to produce what would be just the second 25-homer, 100-RBI season constructed by a Braves player this decade.

But the young shortstop certainly appreciated the opportunity to make up for a potentially costly error committed during the Braves' 7-4 win over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at SunTrust Park.

“When you make a mistake, you want to do something big to come back and that’s what he did for us today,” said Freddie Freeman, who scored Swanson with a go-ahead RBI double that accounted for the first of the Braves’ four eighth-inning runs.

Swanson drilled his 12th homer and drove in each of the Braves’ first three runs before allowing Brandon Dixon’s leadoff grounder to elude him to begin the eighth. The error extended the inning and led to Jacob Webb allowing consecutive two-out homers -- Grayson Greiner’s two-run shot and JaCoby Jones’ game-tying solo shot.

“I’m kind of mad at myself,” Swanson said. “I told Webby too, that’s just kind of unacceptable at that point of the game to make not necessarily a physical error, but just my approach to the whole thing. But the ability to bounce back, not only individually, but as a team with four runs and be able to put some pressure on them was really good for us.”

Swanson followed the error by drawing a one-out walk off Joe Jimenez in the bottom of the eighth. The 25-year-old infielder then showed off another of his tools as he scored from first base on Freeman’s double to right. Per Statcast, the dash was completed in 10.03 seconds. The sprint speed equates to 29.5 feet per second, which is better than Swanson’s season average (28.7 ft./sec.) and the MLB average (27 ft./sec.).

Along with being the Braves’ second-fastest player, Swanson has also become one of the most productive bats within a potent lineup. His third-inning, two-run shot off Tigers starter Matthew Boyd stands as one of the 12 homers he’s tallied through this year’s first 216 at-bats. His two-out double in the fifth increased his team-leading RBI total to 41.

Swanson is actually on pace to hit 32 home runs and drive in 112 runs. The 30-homer projection certainly seems outlandish for a guy who had totaled 23 homers over a little more than 1,000 at-bats entering the year. But this is not the same guy who spent nearly all of last season battling a left wrist injury.

Entering Sunday, Swanson had registered 22 barrels, or four fewer than he had combined to total over the two previous seasons. So, maybe it’s not ridiculous to at least think about the possibility of him joining Justin Upton (2014) as the only Braves to record a 25-homer, 100-RBI season this decade.

“The ball is jumping off his bat,” Braves bench coach Walt Weiss said. “It’s different than it’s been. In the past, he’s juiced balls on the inner half (of the plate). But you’re seeing him juice balls to right now and in a big part of the field in left-center. The power is coming along for sure.”

Assigned the managerial responsibilities when manager Brian Snitker got sick just before the game, Weiss had to sweat through Webb allowing the two homers in the eighth and closer Luke Jackson keeping things interesting by allowing Christian Stewart’s solo shot in the ninth.

With two of their top relievers stumbling during the final stages of this game, the Braves were reminded they will eventually need to strengthen what has become an improved bullpen. But it remains highly unlikely they will sign Craig Kimbrel even once Monday arrives and the loss of a Draft pick is no longer attached to signing Atlanta's former closer.

The Braves have interest in Kimbrel, but they are not interested in the multi-year commitment the reliever still seeks.

At some point, the Braves will likely use the trade market to upgrade both their bullpen and rotation. But for now, there is certainly reason to feel good about an offense that can always depend on Freeman and now counts Swanson as one of its most valuable assets.

“Dansby has been outstanding,” Weiss said. ”He’s really come along as an offensive player. Guys with instincts like Dansby and a baseball IQ, they get better and better because they make adjustments. He’s been a very good shortstop all along. He’s having a heck of a year. He’s got some big hits for us and the power is coming. Dansby is in a really good place.”