After a successful major-league debut, Spencer Schwellenbach said he believed he threw “okay” – which tells you a lot about him.

“Obviously, really hard on myself,” he said.

It was not perfect, but the Braves couldn’t have asked for much more from his first MLB start. He gave them a chance to win.

Their offense, as has often been the case over the last month and change, couldn’t hold up its end. Atlanta lost to the Nationals, 7-2, on Wednesday at Truist Park.

Five observations:

1. As he went through his pregame preparation in the bullpen, Schwellenbach felt nervous. When he took the field, it all went away.

He ran out to the mound in front of over 30,000 people.

“Just looked up into the stands, tried to take everything,” he said. “I just thought, ‘Oh, this is a really cool experience.’”

The right-hander allowed three runs over five innings – all three on Lane Thomas’ fifth-inning homer that put Washington ahead for good. But Schwellenbach, the Braves’ No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had a rather uneventful debut, which is a positive.

The simple quality to spot: His composure. He never seemed intimidated or fazed.

In the second inning, Adam Duvall’s two-base error put a runner at third with no outs. Schwellenbach escaped unscathed. In the third, he allowed a two-out double but no runs. In the fourth, he gave up a one-out double and did the same.

“You see that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Schwellenbach’s composure. “That’s kind of the stuff you’re looking at with young guys when they come up. (Spencer) Strider was the same way. Just had an innate ability to kind of keep everything in perspective and not let the game speed up on him. Thought he did a really nice job.”

Added catcher Travis d’Arnaud: “He stayed calm the whole time. Unfortunately, we gave up the three runs there. But for the most part, he was pretty even-keel and seemed like himself the whole time.”

2. In 2019, Schwellenbach underwent a procedure to repair his UCL. In 2021, he had a full Tommy John operation.

“I had a lot of time down, and that really taught me that, take every day as it is, not look too far ahead,” he said. “And I think that’s helped me this year, for sure.”

It helped him take it one day at a time in the minors – which can be difficult considering everyone there has the same goal. But Schwellenbach stayed focused as he continued pitching well during his start to the season.

On Wednesday, Schwellenbach lived out his dream. The Braves, on the other hand, saw their second-round pick in 2021 – the one who missed all of 2022 because of Tommy John surgery – take the mound.

“He had Tommy John surgery right when he was drafted, so there was a quiet time of just rehab, a full year and a half of that,” Shelby Vondette, Schwellenbach’s fiancée, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Now, the process of him pitching and actually being out there, that seems fast. Somehow just moving up quick, so I’m super excited and thankful for it.”

Schwellenbach had around 12 family members at Truist Park for his debut. In total, though, around 25 supporters attended.

“There were some friends that didn’t even tell me they were coming and they showed up,” he said.

They loved seeing him achieve something so special.

“It’s great,” Robin Schwellenbach, his mother, said. “It’s what he’s worked so hard for all these years. It was kind of nice, he didn’t have a lot of preparation before. Just a couple days’ notice. Here we go.”

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Schwellenbach (56) delivers to a Washington Nationals batter during the fifth inning at Truist Park, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /

3. This time, it was left-hander MacKenzie Gore who quieted the Braves.

He held them two runs – one earned – on six hits over 5 1/3 innings. His bullpen did the rest.

The Braves have scored three or fewer runs in 14 of their 25 games in May.

On Wednesday, they struck out 13 times and didn’t draw any walks. They have struck out at least 10 times in 28 of their 53 games this season – fourth most in baseball.

“Normally during a 162-game year, these little lulls happen,” d’Arnaud said. “Last year, unfortunately for us, it happened in September and October. It’s better (that) it’s happening in May, so we can grow and continue to grow and learn and keep going forward with over two-thirds of the season left.”

4. D’Arnaud, a veteran in the game, had the perfect advice for Schwellenbach ahead of his big night.

“Just try to remind him it’s baseball,” d’Arnaud said. “Just try to take it pitch by pitch. Obviously, it’s something someone looks forward to ever since they were a little kid. There’s a lot of emotions there. Everyone in this clubhouse has been through it. The best advice I gave was, ‘Just try to take it pitch by pitch and soak it all in. You only get one first game ever once. So, just try to stay calm.’ And he did a great job of that.”

5. Initially, the Braves planned on starting Reynaldo López in Thursday’s series finale. They instead opted for Ray Kerr.

Kerr was available out of the bullpen on Wednesday in the event that Schwellenbach had a short start. But he went unused and will start on Thursday.

López is healthy. By starting Kerr, the Braves built in an extra day of rest for their rotation, which is beneficial over what has been a long stretch of games without an off day.

Stat to know

3.5 - The Braves have scored 3.5 runs per game in May – the fourth-lowest mark in the majors.


“I feel like it can be faster if you let it, and I felt like I did a good job of controlling my emotions tonight, taking a deep breath when needed. And I think that’s the biggest thing: Not get too worried about a ball or a missed location or hit. You just try and get the next hitter.” - Schwellenbach when asked if the big-league game is faster than the minors

Up next

The Braves will see Nationals right-hander Trevor Williams in Thursday’s finale, which begins at 7:20 p.m.