Rookie SS dives to snare rocket, starts DP with bases loaded to end threat
By Pat James
ATLANTA -- The fans flocked to Turner Field on Saturday night -- 40,124 of them in fact, to pay homage to the ballpark in its penultimate game.
But after the Braves stormed out to a three-run lead through the first seven innings, the postseason-hungry Tigers looked to play spoilers when they loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth. Then, with Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate, Chaz Roe entered.
The right-hander struck out the Detroit slugger on four pitches, bringing J.D. Martinez to the plate. Like a rocket, the ball jumped off Martinez's bat on the first pitch and appeared destined to skip into left field and score a pair of runs.
But ranging to his right, shortstop Dansby Swanson made a diving stop to corral the sharp grounder. He fired to second base to initiate an inning-ending double play, the highlight in Atlanta's eventual 5-3 win.
"We just kind of had it shaded perfectly," Swanson said. "Chaz made the pitch, a lot of them. He made some good ones. I just happened to be right there and give credit to [second baseman] Jace [Peterson] for being able to turn it the way he did. Without him, that's only one out."
As soon as the ball landed in first baseman Freddie Freeman's glove, the 22-year-old rookie shortstop jumped into the air and yelled as the Turner Field crowd and home dugout erupted in cheers.
The energy rivaled the buzz that once filled the 20-year-old ballpark when fans often frequented it for October baseball.
"This was a playoff-atmosphere game, and a lot of young guys stepped up big for us today," Freeman said. "That's great to see, and that play Dansby made was an Andrelton [Simmons]-type play right there. That's big praise for him."
Swanson's glove was also matched by his bat Saturday night, as the heralded prospect went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. The shortstop is hitting .366 (26-for-71) with 15 runs in his past 21 games.
"It's just what he does every day," said rookie right-hander Aaron Blair, who allowed two runs over six-plus innings and struck out 10 in winning his final start. "He never ceases to amaze with the plays he makes or the clutch hits he gets. It's just the type of player he is."
Just a year removed from college and six weeks into his Major League career, Swanson has lived up to expectations and developed into the quarterback of the Braves' infield.
And with this defensive gem, he only added to his already impressive resume.
"That's amazing," said Braves manager Brian Snitker about. "[Martinez] hit the ball and I thought base hit, nope, double play. The kid is amazing. You're going to have a lot of fun watching this kid play for the next 15-20 years."
Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.