WASHINGTON -- Over the years, Dansby Swanson has garnered a reputation as a hard-nosed player. He proved why while re-earning that distinction Monday night at Nationals Park.
Not only did Swanson’s uniform need proper cleaning, his face needed new bandaging after he starred in the Cubs’ 5-1 victory over the Nationals that snapped their three-game losing skid. The big swing of the night came from Swanson, who cranked a game-breaking two-run homer in the fifth, two innings after he incurred a bloody gash above his right eye during a headfirst slide into second base on a double.
“Third time in my career I've been attacked by my own helmet,” Swanson said. “I’m 0-for-3 in terms of wins against the helmet.”
Swanson’s helmet was already on its way off by the time he slid hard into second baseman Luis García’s tag in the third inning, the shortstop smelling a hustle double when Victor Robles was slow to play his line drive into left-center field. As it wobbled, the inside of the helmet scraped Swanson’s face. García’s right arm knocked it off completely, leaving Swanson’s face exposed when García reached with his glove hand to apply the late tag.
The resulting gash was entirely the helmet’s fault and occurred before the tag, Swanson later clarified. All the same, blood trailed down his face when he stood safely on the second-base bag.
“It was super-coincidental bad luck,” Swanson said. “Maybe I’ll turn my face the other way or slide feetfirst next time and hopefully avoid cutting my face open again.”
Said manager David Ross: “He said he must have watched too much playoff hockey last night.”
Ross cleaned the wound after the play, with Cubs assistant athletic trainer Neil Rampe applying a bandage. Swanson finished the frame (he was stranded), completed the next two defensive innings unfazed and pounced on MacKenzie Gore’s second pitch in his next at-bat, depositing it into the Cubs’ bullpen for his second homer of the year.
That was all the support winning pitcher Drew Smyly needed. The veteran left-hander twirled seven innings of one-run ball for his third win. Swanson finished with three hits.
Asked later if the wound would require additional treatment or stitching, Swanson shrugged off concerns, saying: “They’ll probably just glue it together.”
Just another day at the office, eh?
“Being out there is a priority for him, and he'll go out there not 100 percent a lot of the time,” Ross said. “I don't think you play 162 and not be a gamer, right? That’s the definition of someone who plays every single day.”
Smyly also called Swanson a “gamer,” as coaches, players and evaluators have throughout his career. As one of baseball’s most durable players, he certainly personifies the term. The game Swanson missed on April 12 was his first since 2021. He appeared in every game for the Braves last season.
Since the start of 2020, Swanson has appeared in 409 of 412 possible regular-season games, including 208 in a row at one point.
“We know he's going to be out there every single day,” said Smyly, who shaved his ERA to 2.83 in six starts. “He doesn't come out of games. I played with him in Atlanta. He plays through injuries.”
Which is why nobody in the Cubs’ dugout was surprised when Swanson’s gash didn’t force him out, no matter how gnarly it looked. And nobody was surprised by the way he responded.
“I just love playing,” Swanson said. “I love winning and competing, and when you’ve got a great group of guys like we do, you do it for each other. You never want to disappoint anyone, never let anyone down. That’s one of my biggest fears: letting people around me down. So you just kind of strap it up each day no matter what's going on, and you go about it.”