He gave his family a lasting memory that seemed like a distant memory by the time the game was over.
Former Shenendehowa star Ian Anderson pitched four scoreless innings to lay the groundwork for an 8-7 victory by the Atlanta Braves over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday night.
And he put himself in elite company.
The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, and the 22-year-old Anderson extended his postseason scoreless streak to 15 2/3 innings over the course of three games. The only other player in MLB history with shutouts (at least four innings each) in the first three postseason pitching starts of his career was Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson — in 1905.
Anderson’s performance also created a lasting first-hand memory for his family, who were able to attend one of Anderson’s major league games for the first time, as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted at the start of the series to allow some fan attendance. His parents Bob and Karen and twin brother Ben, who plays in the Texas Rangers organization, had seats not far behind the Braves’ dugout among the 10,624 people at the game.
They were treated to a sometimes rocky, but ultimately solid performance from Ian, a 2016 first-round draft pick who made his MLB debut at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 26 and has been an integral part of the Braves’ rotation in the playoffs.
And Atlanta nearly wasted Anderson’s work, taking leads of 7-0 and 8-3 before almost giving all of it back in a game that lasted four hours and 12 minutes.
“This one you can almost take a little more pride in,” Anderson said during the postgame Zoom conference. “That’s a good lineup, and having to battle through that and come out with a huge team win, it’s one that I’ll probably look back on, however this ends up. This is the one that I’m most proud of to this point.”
Ace Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers, but he was scratched because of back spasms. Manager Dave Roberts told the Los Angeles Times that he expects Kershaw to pitch in the NLCS, but it won’t be Game 3 Wednesday night.
Rookie Tony Gonsolin got the start and lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the top of the fourth, and the Braves were up 2-0 when Anderson left the game.
He finished with five strikeouts against five walks and just one hit, an opposite-field bloop single by Justin Turner in the third inning. After getting credit for victories in the Wild Card Series against Cincinnati and in the NL Division Series against Miami, Anderson wasn’t eligible for the decision on Tuesday because he didn’t pitch the required five innings.
“He was just really working,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “There was traffic, he did a great job of not giving in. He kept pitching. He was off, as evidenced by the walks and the pitch count. He just wasn’t real sharp. It’s going to happen. To his credit, he kept things manageable, didn’t let anything get out of hand, and what a great trait for a young pitcher.”
“I think it’s the will to try to keep them from crossing home plate, really trying to bear down, make stops and knowing you have the guys behind you and a catcher with you that are trying to do the same thing,” Anderson said.
“I thought I had a good pitch mix going. Obviously, I would’ve liked to have cut down on the walks. I had a few good counts where I tried a little too hard to put guys away. Other than that, I thought we were mixing it pretty well.”
Anderson got out of jams in the first and third innings, helped by a stellar defensive play in the first and the deep center-field dimensions of Globe Life Field in the third.
He opened the bottom of the first by walking Mookie Betts, who went to second on a wild pitch, then Max Muncy walked.
With two outs, Will Smith ripped a hard shot toward third base, but the Braves’ Riley Austin snared it on one hop, and Freeman dove to his right to stretch all the way out on the ground while keeping his toe on first base to end the threat.
To start the bottom of the third, the L.A.’s Chris Taylor hit a rocket to straightaway center that would have been a home run at Dodger Stadium, but was caught at the wall by Cristian Pache in front of the Globe Life 407-foot sign.
The Dodgers loaded the bases from there on a walk by Betts, Turner’s single and a walk to Muncy. Anderson got out of that mess by inducing an easy ground ball from Smith, again to Riley at third.
Anderson faced just four batters in the fourth, striking out two, and after 85 pitches (48 for strikes), Anderson was lifted in favor of Tyler Matzek.
“Every part of the competitor in you wants to stay in there,” Anderson said. “Our bullpen’s been so good all year and Matzek came in and absolutely shut it down. Obviously, you want to stay in, but I have all the confidence in the world in my teammates.
“Riley made a huge play, and Freddie showed why he’s a Gold Glove. It definitely settled me down. We were able to get out of that jam, and that went a long way to helping me get through the innings I got there.”
“He kept pitching and trusting his stuff, kept us right there, kept them scoreless despite all the traffic he had,” Snitker said. “When you throw over 80 pitches in four innings, things aren’t really going smooth for you, you’re having to work. You combine that with probably the mental thing of this type of situation, and there was no easy sledding for him.”
As soon as Anderson was out of the game, the Braves scored four runs in a top of the fifth that lasted 33 minutes and put Atlanta up 6-0.
The Dodgers finally got on the scoreboard with one out in the bottom of the seventh when Cory Seager hit a three-run homer to cut it to 7-3.
Atlanta regained some cushion in the top of the ninth when Ozzie Albies hit a solo home to make it 8-3, his second of the series, and the second caught by teammate Mark Melancon in the Braves dugout.
The Dodgers got three back in the bottom of the ninth on Seager’s RBI double, scoring Betts, and Muncy’s two-run homer with two outs.
Melancon came in and got Smith to hit a grounder to Albies at second, but he bobbled it to allow Smith to make it safe to first.
Cody Bellinger followed with an RBI double to cut it to 8-7, but AJ Pollock grounded out to Riley at third to end the game.
“As long as we keep winning ballgames, that’s [his scoreless streak] just a side effect,” Anderson said. “We’re up 2-0 and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.
“It [end of the game] was definitely nerve-racking. That’s a good team over there and they don’t quit. The last two outs are the toughest you’re going to get, especially in the postseason.
“I know they [family] were super-excited to be able to see the game. I’m pretty bad about looking into the stands and trying to find family and stuff like that, but I was able to scope them out before the game. I know they had a good time and got to see a pretty good ballgame.”