Afterward, Dansby Swanson said he hadn’t been nervous — emotional, yes, but not in a jittery way — and he hadn’t looked it. He hit the ball hard his first and last time up. (The first at-bat yielded a lineout to center that produced a lustier cheer than any Atlanta Braves’ homer of this forlorn season.) He went 2-for-4 with a strikeout on a breaking ball. He didn’t fumble any grounders because the ball wasn’t hit to him.
“As close to a dream come true as you could get,” Swanson said, and he did this on four hours’ sleep after a six-hour drive from Pearl, Miss., to Kennesaw on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. He did it as the first No. 1 overall pick to make his big-league debut the year after his drafting since Darin Erstad in 1995/1996. (Erstad’s debut: 0-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts.)
In sum, Dansby Swanson’s first game in the majors was among the few good things that have happened with the 2016 Braves. The game itself was another in a series of nadirs. The Braves lost 10-3 to the second-worst team in baseball on a night when Kyle Gibson, who’d never worked a nine-inning complete game, worked a nine-inning complete game.
The Braves’ pitchers — they deployed six — combined to throw 213 pitches. (Gibson, who entered with an ERA of 5.09, required a mere 115.) The 201st pitch enabled Gibson, who’d reached base twice in 26 big-league plate appearances, to draw a ninth-inning walk. Eric O’Flaherty entered a tie game and rendered it untied, and then he suffered the ultimate indignity: The left-handed reliever was pulled in mid-inning for another left-handed reliever.
But enough about the Braves: We’ve known for 4 1/2 months that they’re terrible. The first sight of Swanson generated a hope that they won’t stay terrible forever. The very best news: He did not look overmatched. He looked as advertised, and he arrived as MLB.com’s No. 5 overall prospect. He should be here a good long while. At issue now is whether the Braves can find enough good young guys to go with him.