ATLANTA -- On a night when yet another of their starters was chased early and their All-Star reliever surrendered a ninth-inning homer, the Braves again staged an exhilarating comeback and responsibly celebrated the Dansby Swanson walk-off blast that capped a 7-6 win over the Nationals on Monday night. With the
ATLANTA -- On a night when yet another of their starters was chased early and their All-Star reliever surrendered a ninth-inning homer, the Braves again staged an exhilarating comeback and responsibly celebrated the Dansby Swanson walk-off blast that capped a 7-6 win over the Nationals on Monday night. With the victory, Atlanta took sole possession of first place in the National League East.
“I don’t even allow myself to think, ‘Well, they’re going to do it again’ when the inning starts,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I just sit there and let it happen. Then when it’s over, it’s like, ‘Well, they did it again.’”
While the Braves have routinely staged late comebacks over the past few years, this one was unique in a few ways. Swanson’s two-run blast off Daniel Hudson was his first career walk-off homer and the only one he believes he’s hit since he was around 8 years old.
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Hitting a walk-off homer is something Swanson always dreamed off as he grew up in suburban Atlanta, watching Chipper Jones and other former Braves greats. But the celebration in his dreams was not quite like this one, during which his teammates formed a wide circle around him and adhered to social distancing and safety protocols.
“That was the weirdest celebration,” Swanson said. “I thought Nick [Markakis’ walk-off over the Blue Jays on Aug. 6] celebration was weird. But being a part of it, personally, made it even weirder. I felt so confused out there, honestly. I’m still a little confused about what happened.”
Confusion would have been an understandable response. At no point until the ninth inning did it feel like the Braves were going to end this game in celebratory fashion. Touki Toussaint issued six walks over three-plus innings, and the Nationals limited Atlanta to two hits in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Then it seemed like the Nationals might have delivered the crushing blow when Juan Soto created a 6-3 lead with his ninth-inning homer off Will Smith. But the words exchanged between Smith and the Nats’ bench after Soto briefly admired his 445-foot shot were just the start of the late fireworks.
"Will Smith said something to Soto that I didn’t really appreciate,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “So I wanted to let him know, ‘Hey, it wasn’t Juan that threw the ball. His job is to hit it. Just be quiet and get on the mound. You threw the pitch. Make a better pitch.’”
About 10 minutes later, Hudson was the one wishing he had made better pitches.
Markakis, who got the Braves on the board in the second with the first of his two doubles, fueled Atlanta’s ninth-inning rally when he was hit by a Hudson pitch. He jogged home moments later when Adam Duvall lined his fourth homer of the season over the left-field wall.
Duvall returned to the dugout and provided a scouting report for Swanson as he prepared to face Hudson for the first time. The Braves shortstop looked at a first-pitch fastball out of the zone and then drilled a 96.2 mph heater into Atlanta's bullpen.
“[Duvall] coming up huge was great,” Swanson said. “Then to be able to discuss what pitches he saw when he was at the plate, it’s great to have a relationship with a guy you trust what they saw and what you can take into your at-bat.”
Dating back to his prolific playing days at Vanderbilt, Swanson has shown the ability to shine in big moments. This was his fourth career game-winning hit. The most memorable might have previously been recorded against the Marlins on May 20, 2018, which before Monday had stood as the last time the Braves had tallied four runs or more in the ninth inning of a walk-off win.
“The brain is a powerful muscle, and I’m trying to put it to good use,” Swanson said. “I’m definitely blessed to be in that situation and to come through like I did.”
Josh Tomlin will make his first start of the season when the Braves host the Nationals on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Tomlin has been one of Atlanta's most valuable relievers this year, and the 35-year-old veteran will get a chance to fill one of the holes in the rotation. The game will be available on MLB.TV.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.