Category: Sports

Atlanta United can be a serious MLS Cup contender

John Strong and Brad Friedel discuss Atlanta’s potential after the 3-0 win over FC Dallas.

Three Cuts: Dansby Swanson reestablishing long-term promise through improving offensive approach

In terms of wins above replacement, the Braves rank in MLB’s lower third at three positions: Third base, right field and left field. With first base and center field in capable hands and a Tyler Flowers-led catching platoon performing well above expectations yet again, that leaves the promising middle-infield combination of Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies to answer the question of whether the Braves are a couple position players away from contending … or a handful.

Albies’ first 38 games have done nothing to tarnish the prospect luster, but its Swanson’s return to form that has truly re-sparked the faith that Atlanta is inching closer to contention.

Over the past 30 days, he’s produced like one of the best players in baseball. His on-base percentage over this final stretch of the campaign sat directly behind Kris Bryant and he’s tied with Joey Votto in WAR entering Sunday’s action — and while small-sample stars come in all shapes and sizes over the course of a season, it’s impossible to ignore a 65-grade prospect (on the 20-80 scouting scale) finally producing like a 65-grade prospect. If Swanson had hit anywhere near this level for the entire season, Cody Bellinger would not be the runaway NL Rookie of the Year favorite.

Of course, “hit” is a dubious operative word here, because while Swanson is certainly putting the bat to the ball since his return it’s his plate discipline that is primarily responsible for his skyrocketing OBP. He’s tied for the seventh-most walks in baseball since Aug. 9. In fact, even when factoring in his full-season valleys, he still finds himself in impressive company in regards to rookie walk rates (min. 300 plate appearances):

Aaron Judge: 17.8

Dansby Swanson: 11.6

Andrew Benintendi: 10.6

Josh Bell: 10.6

Cody Bellinger: 10.5

It’s worth noting that Judge and Swanson are tied with 10 intentional walks for different reasons — opposing pitchers avoiding Judge’s long-ball potential vs. bypassing Swanson, who has hit in the 8th hole for most of the season, to get to a Braves pitcher — but, for a player who does strike fear like the other 25-homer threats listed above, it’s a promising nod to discipline. Even as Swanson has struggled against sliders, he’s still swinging at just 27.6 percent of pitches he sees outside the zone. All told, that’s a similar swing profile to Logan Morrison and Cody Bellinger this season with higher contact rates, and once the quality of that contact (and his BABIP) rose the numbers have followed.

“I think being able to believe in what you’re trying to do is probably the biggest thing just because you may be doing the right thing but if you’re not truly believe in that then obviously the results aren’t going to come like you’d like,” the 2015 No. 1 overall pick said. “I think that’s just probably the biggest thing is just trusting what I do and trusting my ability. That’s been paying a lot of dividends for me.”

Perhaps the biggest difference for the 23-year-old Vanderbilt product? His numbers in two-strike situations:

Pre-Demotion: 205 plate appearances, .164/.224/.217, 16 wRC+

Since Return: 60 plate appearances, .300/.417/.440, 131 wRC+

Every rebuild relies on countless variables to fall into place. Atlanta’s version is no different. The franchise is banking on some combination of their pitching prospects to hit along with Swanson, Albies, Ronald Acuña and/or other young position players panning out and helping to form a youthful foundation around Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte. 

If only for a brief stretch, Dansby Swanson is walking the walk.


WATCH: Lane Adams homer delivers Braves' 3rd walk-off win in 4 games

Lane Adams walks off the Miami Marlins with a home run.

Vargas snaps streak, Royals offense comes up big to split series with Twins

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jason Vargas snapped a personal four-game losing streak with his career high 15th victory, Brandon Moss homered and drove in four runs and the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 11-3 on Sunday.

Moss had an RBI double in a six-run second inning and a three-run homer in the seventh.

Eric Hosmer doubled twice among his four hits for his fourth straight multi-hit game. He has 12 hits in his past 15 at-bats to raise his average to .328.

Vargas (15-10) gave up a run and four hits over five innings. He was 2-7 with an 8.13 ERA in his previous 11 starts.

Vargas’ previous season-high was 14 victories in 2012 with the Seattle Mariners.

Byron Buxton tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the second for the only run against the Royals’ starter. Vargas worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth when Brian Dozier grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Royals sent 11 men to the plate in a six-run second inning off Bartolo Colon (6-12). Hosmer led off with a single, his first of two hits in the inning. He scored a run and drove in a run in the second.

Alcides Escobar contributed a two-run single, while Moss, Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield had run-producing doubles.

Colon retired only five of the 11 batters he faced for his shortest outing of the year.

Kenny Vargas belted a two-run homer in the Twins’ ninth.

The victory allowed the Royals to split the series after losing the first two games to the Twins. Kansas City is back at .500 (71-71) and moved them within 2 1/2 games of Minnesota for the second wild-card berth.


Escobar was hitting .179 on June 17, but is 81 for 278 (.299) in his past 75 games, to raise his average to .248. He went 6 for 13 in the series against the Twins.


Twins: LHP Adalberto Mej?a (arm strain) will likely be activated and inserted into the rotation at the end of the week after tossing five one-hit scoreless innings Saturday for Double-A Chattanooga in a rehab start.

Royals: RHP Joakim Soria (left oblique strain) returned to Arizona to be with his daughter who had appendicitis surgery. Also, his wife’s due date is Thursday for the couple’s third child. The club had planned to activate Soria on Monday, but that will be delayed several days.


Twins: After a day off, RHP Kyle Gibson (9-10, 5.19 ERA) will start Tuesday against the Padres.

Royals: RHP Jason Hammel (8-10, 4.73) will start the series opener against the White Sox. Chicago will go with RHP Reynaldo Lopez (0-3, 4.84).

Greg Garza taps it in for Atlanta United vs. FC Dallas | 2017 MLS Highlights

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