Column: A well-earned day off for Dansby Swanson sees the Chicago Cubs lose 5-2 to end a satisfying homestand

The Chicago Cubs lineup was missing one of its key pieces Wednesday in a 5-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, but no one could begrudge Dansby Swanson for taking the day off.

Before missing his first game since Sept. 10, 2021, when he played for the Atlanta Braves, Swanson said sitting was the “smart thing to do considering all the circumstances.” He expects to return to the lineup Friday in Los Angeles, where the Cubs open a six-game trip against the Dodgers and Oakland A’s.

The Cubs fell to 6-5 after winning back-to-back series on the homestand.

The “circumstances” Swanson referred to that left him exhausted and cramping Tuesday night — when he asked to be taken out of a 14-9 comeback win over the Mariners — are the kind of family matters that transcend baseball.

It was a husband taking his wife to the hospital at 4 a.m., spending the day there and then reporting to work before leaving in the late night hours.

In this case it was Swanson taking his wife, Mallory, to the hospital for knee surgery, then going to play in a night game at Wrigley Field, where he went 4-for-4 before being removed, declaring afterward, “My body was just kind of done.”

Mallory Swanson, a star on the U.S. women’s soccer team and for the Chicago Red Stars, suffered a torn left patella tendon during Saturday’s game against Ireland in Austin, Texas, and is likely to miss the World Cup this summer while rehabbing.

“It sucks,” Dansby said Wednesday of Mallory’s injury. “Seeing somebody heartbroken and in pain is not fun, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

Asked Wednesday morning if he felt any different from Tuesday night, Swanson replied: “I got a few more hours of sleep than I had the previous few nights. Circumstances are a little tough at the moment, but we’re obviously doing the best we can.”

Manager David Ross said he admired Swanson for wanting to play every game, but Ross knew his shortstop needed a break after an exhausting episode.

“He’s a smart baseball player, and he’s going through a lot in his life, in general, right now,” Ross said. “The conversation we had was very easy and clean. You’d think you might get some pushback, but we were very much in lockstep. … He understands, and part of the great thing about him is he’s won a world championship and understands what a long season we have.”

The Cubs missed Swanson’s bat in their loss to the Mariners on a perfect 77-degree afternoon at Wrigley, though it might not have made much of a difference. The Cubs came into the day leading the majors with a .290 average but had only four singles until Cody Bellinger’s solo home run in the ninth.

Mariners starter Logan Gilbert (1-1) allowed hits to Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal, the first two batters he faced, then allowed only two more in a dominant outing in which he gave up one run on four hits with six strikeouts in 6⅔ innings.

Marcus Stroman (2-1) pitched well for the third straight start, allowing two runs in six innings. He took the loss despite having only one bad inning — the two-run third in which he walked two and allowed three hits.

Leading 3-1 in the eighth, the Mariners added a pair of solo home runs off reliever Julian Merryweather, including a monstrous 482-foot shot by Jarred Kelenic that landed in the upper section of the center-field bleachers. Kelenic’s homer was the longest at Wrigley since Statcast began tracking such data in 2015, surpassing a 481-foot homer by Javier Báez in 2018.

Taking two of three from a team expected to contend for the American League pennant was satisfying for a Cubs team trying to establish an identity.

President Jed Hoyer said he didn’t want to “draw too many conclusions” from the first 11 games.

“At the same time, it feels like a couple (of these) games, I don’t think we win the last couple of years, honestly,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer pointed to Monday’s game, in which the Cubs blew a lead in the ninth but came back to win 3-2 in 10 innings, and Tuesday’s comeback from an early seven-run deficit.

“It’s easy to pack the bats in when you’re losing 7-0 and your starter in the second inning,” he said. “That was a really impressive win to me. I don’t remember many wins like that. I felt like that was kind of a character win where we didn’t give up. We kept battling. That was super fun.

“I try not to take too much out of early April, but I like how we’re playing.”

Seiya Suzuki is expected to return Friday in Los Angeles, which should provide a lift. And Swanson’s return to the lineup Friday also should help avoid a game like Wednesday’s.

Swanson rationalized his day off as a “win the war, not the battle concept,” knowing one game out of the lineup in mid-April isn’t nearly as important as having him healthy, mentally and physically, for the long haul.

On Tuesday he simply did what any spouse would do in a similar situation, the difference being both are elite athletes at the top of their professions and living in the fishbowl of the modern sports world.

“She can’t do anything by herself, so at any point in the night or day or whatever, if something has to be done, obviously it’s my responsibility,” he said. “Her mom is here, which is making it easier while I’m here (at the ballpark) right now. But it makes it a little challenging.”


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