An exhausted Dansby Swanson had pushed his body to the edge.
The emotional toll of the devastating knee injury suffered by his wife, Mallory, in the US national soccer team’s international friendly on Saturday culminated in Swanson’s exit in the sixth inning of the United States’ electric comeback. Chicago Cubs 14-9 on Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.
Before the inning, Swanson, positioned on the infield turf at the edge of the dirt, threw a warm-up pitch to first baseman Trey Mancini, turned to the Cubs dugout, and signaled that he needed to be replaced. The quick sequence was captured on Marquee Sports Network camera behind home plate.
The Cubs later announced that Swanson left with tightness in the lower left, though manager David Ross described it as cramping after the game and didn’t seem overly concerned about a possible injury.
“Realistically, I felt like my body was done,” Swanson said. “I felt that doing anything else would probably have put me in danger.
“I felt like the night was over for me, quite simple. I probably haven’t eaten, slept, or drunk enough water in the last few days, so I’m already drinking and taking care of myself.”
Swanson woke up at 4 am Tuesday to accompany Mallory and her mother to the hospital for surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in her left knee. He spent most of the day there before reporting to Wrigley Field for Tuesday night’s game.
A high-scoring forward for the USWNT and the Chicago Red Stars, Mallory’s status for the World Cup that begins July 20 in Australia and New Zealand is in jeopardy. Surgery generally requires at least six months to recover.
“I’m glad we can be here together, I can’t imagine being apart right now,” Swanson said. “Everyone knows that it is a pretty tough and heartbreaking situation for her. I am heartbroken for her. Just lots of tears and sadness.
“Two things can be true at the same time: it can suck, and we can be sad and upset. We can also understand the bigger picture and plans of God and everything. … It’s just a sad time and we’ll get through it together.”
Swanson has somehow managed to play at an elite level under the circumstances. Whenever Ross asks if he’s any good, Swanson replies, “It’s my job.” A four-hit game Tuesday, his first since July 1 with the Atlanta Braves, and two RBIs were part of an offensive outburst for the Cubs.
Swanson credits his teammates and how they all want to act for each other.
“I love being here, I love being with the guys,” Swanson said. “I would like to think that a lot of my strength doesn’t come from me. I pray a lot for strength and spirit every day, just let the good Lord guide me. Just grateful for the peace that comes with it.”
Swanson’s durability has become intertwined with his game. He started all but one game in the past three seasons for the Braves, playing more than 3,318 innings at one of the most demanding positions. So some concern is inherent when he leaves a game.
Nico Hoerner moved to shortstop, and Nick Madrigal took over at second base after Swanson’s departure.
About 15 hours before the first pitch on the series finale at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, Swanson seemed unsure if he’d be in the lineup. He hadn’t fully discussed the issue with Ross, adding: “I don’t want to say anything, or not say anything, and get in trouble.”
Swanson plans to leave the decision up to his manager.
“The last thing I want to do is walk out of games,” he said. “I have a bit of an ego, a bit of pride with it. It just didn’t feel smart at the time, just trusting my gut.”
The Cubs became the first team since Sept. 27, 2001, to drop seven runs in the second inning and lead into the bottom of the third, according to ESPN Stats and Info. Before Tuesday, the Cubs had lost their last 79 games when they lost by seven or more. His most recent win was on April 14, 2018 against the Braves.
An eight-run third, punctuated by Nelson Velázquez’s go-ahead grand slam, prompted the comeback and erased a rough 1⅓-inning lead off by Hayden Wesneski.
It was Velázquez’s turn to don the cowboy hat Hoerner wore after his hit on Monday. Velázquez finished with three hits in his first start since the Cubs recalled him from Triple-A.
“I just keep doing the same thing that I was doing in Iowa and keep working on the same approach,” Velázquez said. “My confidence right now is 1,000%.”