A pair of incredible catches saves Braves

Swanson, Riley flash top-notch skills in the field in Game 2 victory

October 13th, 2022

ATLANTA -- and  both made key defensive plays that helped lead the Braves to a 3-0 win over the Phillies in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday night at Truist Park.

"Just unbelievable plays," manager Brian Snitker said after his team evened the best-of-five series, which now moves to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Friday.

In a scoreless game, Swanson ended the top of the sixth by racing 80 feet to make a diving over-the-shoulder catch of J.T. Realmuto’s fly ball in shallow left-center field. The play allowed starter and former Vanderbilt teammate Kyle Wright to exit the game unscathed. Bryce Harper was left standing on deck.

"For me, defense is everything," Wright said. "My best friend is a good defense. I try to get guys to put it on the ground. When they make catches like that, that's good too. That's been one of my biggest weapons this year, I believe, is the defense. ... I try to rely on these guys a lot. They've been a huge piece of my success."

Swanson’s defensive gem was just the latest in a season where he ranked second in the Majors in Outs Above Average (20), trailing only Detroit's Jonathan Schoop (27). He was also tied for third in runs prevented (15).

"I think Dansby has stepped up huge this year," Riley said. "He's our guy. To me, I think he's the captain of the infield and the clubhouse. And I just try to mimic kind of what he's showing, what he brings every day.

"There's the leadership, the hard work, the attitude of just wanting to win. And I think he instilled that in everybody. Just the way we go about our business and play. The play he made was phenomenal. He's pretty special at shortstop."

Momentum that built from that play seemed to carry over into the bottom half of the inning, as the Braves pounced on starter Zack Wheeler for three runs. After walking, Swanson came around to score Atlanta's second run of the inning on Riley's infield single.

As stellar a play as Swanson made, Riley may have topped it with his running catch two innings later. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound third baseman covered 90 feet, running 26.9 feet per second, to make a grab before crashing into the rolled tarp in foul territory. His fastest sprint speed during the regular season was 27.7 feet per second.

Riley, who posted minus-6 outs above average this year, made the catch with one out and one on in a three-run game.

“I feel like that tarp is hurting right now, because he's pretty strong," Michael Harris II said. "He's a pretty hefty guy. So I know that tarp probably has a dent somewhere in it, and hopefully, it holds some rain next time it goes out.”

So whose catch goes higher on the list of highlights?

“I'll say his was better,” Swanson said. “I didn't have to dodge a tarp.”