After over a month off from major league baseball, Dansby Swanson made his highly anticipated return from a heel injury on Monday against the Rockies. The Braves shortstop is in the midst of a breakout year that nearly resulted in an All-Star appearance and went 4 for 10 with three walks in Rome during his rehab assignment. That success did not carry over for him or the Braves today.
It was a rare pitcher’s duel at Coors Field with Julio Teheran up against Tim Melville, who was making his second start of the season. The game was on YouTube TV, so for those of you that could not watch: don’t worry, you didn’t miss much action. Teheran’s dominance from his last outing over the Marlins carried with him to Colorado, as he tossed six innings, allowing three hits and no runs. Melville would match him tit-for-tat, throwing five scoreless innings. His mix of low 90s fastballs and junk kept Atlanta’s bats off-balance all day. The Braves did have their chances but were 1-12 with runner’s in scoring position, and that one hit did not result in a run.
In Swanson’s first at-bat he struck a ball deep to centerfield, but it was caught. The next time up, he barely missed a towering home run that – after replay – was determined a foul ball down the left-field line. Swanson would end up striking out and did so in his next two at-bats as well, finishing a forgetful 0-4 with 3 Ks. However, he looked comfortable at the plate and just missed on having an extremely productive afternoon. It’s a matter of time before he begins helping this offense return to it peak.
The game became a battle of the bullpens entering the seventh. Atlanta relievers’ 26-straight scoreless inning streak ended in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Mets, and unfortunately, so would Chris Martin’s five-inning scoreless streak in the eighth inning of Monday’s contest. Catcher Dom Nunez led off the frame with a double and scored later in the inning on a Charlie Blackmon sac-fly to break the scoreless tie. But like they always seem to do, the Braves had one last push in them.
I’ve talked about how the replacements Alex Anthopoulos has found through waiver wire pickups have made a substantial impact on the NL East race. Given the way the Nationals have been playing, the Braves could find themselves in a much tighter battle with 30 games left in the season if it wasn’t for the unsung heroes of Billy Hamilton, Adeiny Hechavarria, and now Francisco Cervelli.
Followng a Dansby Swanson strikeout, Cervelli tripled on a ball that was nearly caught by Charlie Blackmon and trickled all the way to the wall. Rafael Ortega walked, and Adeiny Hechavarria brough Cervelli home with a sacrifice fly. Acuña would then strikeout to end the inning.
It wouldn’t be enough, however. Anthony Swarzak walked the only batter he faced – Nolan Arenado – before being pulled in favor of Jerry Blevins. Blevins made Daniel Murphy look silly, fanning him for the first out of the inning, but he wouldn’t be so lucky against Ryan McMahon. The Rockies second baseman got something over the plate and did not miss it, hitting a screaming line drive just over the high wall in right field for the walk-off home run.
The loss snapped Atlanta’s eight-game winning streak, putting them 5.5 games up on the Nationals in the NL East entering Tuesday’s play. The Braves head to Toronto tomorrow for a two-game set with the Blue Jays.
Acuña’s quest for 40/40
Acuña did not have the most memorable of games, but he did pick up his 31st stolen base. He is now four home runs and nine steals from joining the sacred 40/40 club, which only has four members to date.