Shenendehowa graduate Anderson, Braves heading to World Series

Ian Anderson warms up prior to Saturday's game. (John Bazemore/The Associated Press) 

Ian Anderson warms up prior to Saturday's game. (John Bazemore/The Associated Press) 

Capital Region native Ian Anderson and the Atlanta Braves are headed to the World Series.

The former Shenendehowa High School star didn’t pitch long enough to earn the victory in the Braves’ 4-2 Game 6 win in the National League Championship Series, but the 23-year-old played a key role in the series-clinching win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The starting pitcher Saturday night for the Braves, Anderson struck out four batters, allowed three hits, walked one and allowed an earned run in four innings. Anderson only threw 66 pitches through four innings, but the Braves pinch-hit for Anderson with two outs in the bottom of the fourth — and that was a solid decision. 

In a 1-1 game with two outs and a runner on first, Ehire Adrianza — hitting for Anderson — doubled to extend the inning. Then, Eddie Rosario capped a remarkable NLCS with a three-run homer, helping send the Braves to the World Series for the first time since 1999.

The Braves won the best-of-seven series four games to two, exorcising the demons of last year’s NLCS — when Atlanta squandered 2-0 and 3-1 leads against the Dodgers — and advancing to face the AL champion Astros. Game 1 is Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Braves will be going for their first Series title since 1995, when they beat Cleveland with a team that included Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jon Smoltz and Chipper Jones — a no-nonsense group that became better known for numerous postseason flops during a momentous run of 14 straight division titles.

This flashy team is led by a far more unlikely hero.

Rosario, acquired in a flush of deals just before the July 30 trade deadline that rebuilt the Braves’ depleted outfield, set an Atlanta franchise record and became only the fifth player in baseball history to record 14 hits in a postseason series.

Will Smith worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his fourth save of the postseason after a brilliant relief stint by winner Tyler Matzek, who escaped a huge jam in the seventh by striking out the side. The left-hander has 11 strikeouts with runners in scoring position in the seventh inning or later this postseason.

Spurred on by chants of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie” from the raucous sellout crowd of more than 43,000, Rosario finished 14 of 25 (.560) against the Dodgers, with three homers and nine RBIs.

His final hit was certainly the biggest of the 30-year-old Puerto Rican’s career.

With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the fourth, Rosario came up after Adrianza’s two-out double into the right-field corner. Slow-running catcher Travis d’Arnaud was held at third by coach Ron Washington, surely aware of who was up next.

Rosario got into an extended duel with Walker Buehler, who stepped up to start on three days’ rest after ace Max Scherzer wasn’t able to go because of a tired arm.

Rosario swung and missed the first two pitches. Then, he fouled one off. Then, he took a ball. Then, he fouled off two more pitches.

Finally, he got one he liked from the Dodgers’ 16-game winner — a cutter that Rosario turned into a 105 mph rocket down the right-field line, higher and higher, straight as an arrow until it landed well back into the seats below the Chop House restaurant.

Rosario knew it was gone, dancing down the line after delivering a 361-foot finishing shot to a highly paid team that won 106 games during the regular season — 18 more than the NL East-winning Braves — but came up short in its bid to become baseball’s first repeat champion since the 2000 New York Yankees won their third straight title.

Anderson was making his second start of the NLCS. A 2016 Shenendehowa High School graduate who helped lead the Plainsmen to the Class AA state championship that year, Anderson was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 MLB amateur draft. Anderson made his MLB debut last year, and was 9-5 with 3.58 ERA during a 2021 campaign that saw him strike out 124 batters in 128 1-3 innings. 

During the Braves’ postseason run, Anderson has started three games. In 12 innings, the 6-foot-3, right-handed pitcher allowed three earned runs and struck out a dozen. 

A year ago, when the Braves’ season ended with an NLCS loss to the Dodgers, Anderson was one of the Braves’ top postseason performers. In the 2020 playoffs, Anderson had a 0.96 ERA and struck out 24 batters in 18 2-3 innings. That postseason success followed a 2020 regular season that saw Anderson register a 3-2 record, a 1.95 ERA and strike out 41 batters in 32 1-3 innings after he was called up to the MLB level in late August. 

On Saturday night, after Anderson allowed Cody Bellinger’s run-scoring single in the fourth on his next-to-last hitter of the night, the well-rested Atlanta bullpen took over.

A.J. Minter struck out four in two innings of work. Luke Jackson failed to get an out in the seventh, giving up AJ Pollock’s run-scoring double, but Matzek stranded runners at second and third with three straight strikeouts — the last of them by Mookie Betts on three pitches.

Matzek returned to the mound for a 1-2-3 eighth before handing off to Smith.

The Braves jumped ahead with back-to-back, two-out doubles off Buehler in the first — the second of them by Austin Riley, whose shot down the left-field line one-hopped into the Dodgers bullpen.

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