It’s not often that a player is dealt from one team to another, arrives at the ballpark just minutes before game time and plays a major role in a win.
Scott Downs did just that on Monday. Just hours after being traded from the Los Angeles Angels to the Atlanta Braves, he debuted for his new club in the top of the ninth inning of a tie game with two outs and the bases loaded.
Oh yeah, he was also facing one of the best hitters in the last 20 years: Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton.
In the end, it was just another day at the park — albeit a new one — for the 37-year-old left-handed reliever, who snared a live drive off the bat of Helton on his very first pitch in a Braves uniform, then tossed a scoreless top of the 10th before his new squad rallied in the bottom half defeat the Rockies 9-8 in Atlanta.
Downs, who earned the 37th win of his career, hadn’t even met most of his teammates when he strode to the mound in the ninth, and the first thing he said to them as they gathered around him was “what’s up, guys?”
I guess that’s the playfulness you display when you’ve been around the block a few times — Downs has suited up for five different teams in 12 years (Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos, Toronto Blue Jays, Angels and Braves) — and find yourself going from a fourth-place team to one that’s currently nine games ahead of its closest competition in the NL East.
As one of the top bullpen arms in MLB, Downs is likely to soon find himself tasting postseason play for the first time in his career.
Unfortunately, he’ll have a hard time topping his Braves debut.