The magical rookie year of Atlanta Braves pitcher Ian Anderson continues as he takes the mound just after noon Thursday to face the Cincinnati Reds for his first-ever postseason start and a chance to clinch the National League best-of-3 Wild-Card Series.
The Braves beat the Reds 1-0 in 13 innings on Wednesday to take a 1-0 series lead.
A Shenendehowa graduate, Anderson, the No. 3 overall draft pick by the Braves in 2016, has been impressive over the past month.
His 3-2 record in six starts includes a 1.95 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched, allowing 11 runs, seven of them earned. The rookie right-hander struck out 41 and walked 14.
“I feel really confident about him, just the way he’s handled all the different situations that have been put in front of him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after the Sept. 24 loss to the Miami Marlins. “I feel really good about him starting that second game.”
It was Anderson’s second loss of his career, giving up three unearned runs on seven hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out six in the 5.2 innings he pitched.
Despite the loss, Anderson was again upbeat during the postgame press conference.
“I thought it was good, I stayed on the attack all night and was pounding the zone, getting some weak contact, getting some good results,” he said.
Anderson’s demeanor doesn’t change on the mound, whether it’s his first two career wins coming against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, coming out after three innings against Miami on Sept. 7 or when trying to manage a tighter strike zone against the New York Mets on Sept. 19. Anderson got into trouble early, issuing three walks and gave up three runs in his 4.2 innings of work.
“That’s just kind of how I have always been,” Anderson said. “I thank my parents the most for helping me be like that. They raised me right.
“At the end of the day you can only control what you can do and there is no use in getting mad over what just happened. No use to kind of show your weakness.”
Snitker’s comments aren’t lost on the 22-year-old from Rexford.
“I know he’s ready to go,” Bob Anderson, Ian’s father said Wednesday. “He’s very confident, and hearing his manager talk about his outings and saying how much confidence he has in him, that helps, too. Ian has expressed that to me.”
Father and son communicate daily.
“Every time he comes out of a game, I fire him off a text before he even gets into the clubhouse, so when he finally gets in the clubhouse, he sees it, gets a chance to read it and we start communicating that way,” Bob Anderson said. “Every day, constantly, it’s been good. We’ve kept in touch, and it keeps him grounded.”
Anderson made his debut without fans due to COVID-19, but in the middle of a pennant race, it’s almost an odd-perfect storm.
“It’s really good for a young pitcher experience that, to come in and be in a pennant race and pitch in meaningful games that he did, and it was big for us,” Snitker said. “Now he’s going to get a chance to start a playoff game in his first year, that’s pretty great stuff.
“The only way you can get battle tested is by actually doing it. They [players] can sit and watch and think about it, but until you experience a pennant race and playoff games, you can’t replicate it.”
The Braves’ rookie now gets that chance.
“It’s going to be super exciting,” Ian Anderson said. “This is what you dream of, coming up here, making an impact and getting a chance to pitch in the post-season.”
His game plan hasn’t changed since his MLB debut Aug. 26 against the Yankees.
“At the end of the day, it’s just going out there and pitching my game and that’s the only way at the end of the day to be successful,” Ian Anderson said. “I think that’s what’s helped me so far, just going out there and not trying to do too much, trusting the stuff, trusting the game plan and executing.”
Game 2’s first pitch is scheduled for 12:08 p.m. and televised by ESPN.
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] and follow @StanHudy on Twitter.