Ian Anderson, Braves relievers stifle Astros in Game 3 win

Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson reacts in the rain after striking out Houston Astros pinch hitter Marwin Gonzalez (not pictured) during the fifth inning in game 3 of the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson reacts in the rain after striking out Houston Astros pinch hitter Marwin Gonzalez (not pictured) during the fifth inning in game 3 of the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Ian Anderson was pitching a no-hitter until he was removed from Game 3 of the World Series. To many, it was a maddening reflection of modern baseball thinking. To the Braves, it was the winning formula.

ExploreMark Bradley: Forget the no-hitter, the Braves won

Anderson tossed five no-hit frames before the Braves made a pitching change with the rookie at 76 pitches. The decision worked: They defeated the Astros 2-0 on a rainy Friday night in Georgia.

The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the World Series and are two victories from their second championship in Atlanta history. They did it allowing only two hits and carrying a no-hitter into the eighth.

The Fall Classic’s long-anticipated return to Atlanta was shrouded in cold, drizzling weather. It didn’t spoil the experience for the 42,898 in attendance, who saw the Braves win their first home game in a World Series since they clinched their last championship -- Oct. 28, 1995, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

“It was everything I thought it would be,” manager Brian Snitker said. “The fans were unbelievable. I’m sure outside in The Battery everything was just crazy. It was really cool.”

Anderson is the first rookie to log five no-hit innings in a World Series game since 1912. He tied the longest no-hit bid by a Braves pitcher in the World Series, equaling Tom Glavine’s six no-hit innings in the aforementioned Game 6 of 1995. Only Bill James carried a deeper no-hitter, going 5-1/3 innings in Game 2 of the 1914 series, according to MLB statistician Sarah Langs.

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek reacts after the final out to end the top of the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in game 3 of the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek reacts after the final out to end the top of the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in game 3 of the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek reacts after the final out to end the top of the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in game 3 of the World Series at Truist Park, Friday October 29, 2021, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The Braves’ rookie starter, who’s held the opposition scoreless in five of his eight postseason outings, wasn’t flawless. He issued four walks, two of which came in the first inning. He also hit a batter. But the Astros hit the ball into the outfield only five times. Anderson, who had four strikeouts, was effective despite throwing only 39 strikes against 37 balls.

Snitker pulled Anderson with the top of the Astros’ lineup awaiting. Perhaps Anderson could’ve given the Braves another inning, but Snitker trusted his key relievers. He admitted the decision could’ve backfired.

“He wasn’t going to pitch a nine-inning no-hitter,” Snitker said. “I said, ‘Ian, I’ll be honest with you.’ One of the things was he was throwing a lot of pitches in the top half of that lineup, getting ready to go back out when he did. I thought the fourth inning he really had to work to get through that. He had a really good fifth inning. And then I told him because he was like, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’ But I was just like, ‘Ian, I’m going with my gut right here. Just my eyes, my gut.’”

Anderson understood his manager’s decision, adding: “I think kind of the way the playoffs have been played and managed, you can’t fault Snit for making that move. Like I said, those (relievers) post every time, so you’ve got to have the utmost trust in them. Ultimately, those are the guys that are going to get this thing done.”

The Braves, protecting a 1-0 lead, summoned southpaw A.J. Minter, who despite a hit by pitch kept the Astros’ bats quiet. An inning later, Luke Jackson retired the Astros in order. Aledmys Diaz spoiled the Braves’ no-hit bid by dropping a ball just in front of left fielder Eddie Rosario and behind retreating shortstop Dansby Swanson.

Statcast had the catch probability at 85%.

“I started charging it hard right away, and I noticed Dansby was charging hard as well, and he had his back to the ball,” Rosario said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “Obviously, we’re both trying to make a play on the ball. When I knew I had a beat on it, I was trying to say, ‘I got it, I got it.’ I knew Dansby couldn’t hear me, so at the last minute, knowing we couldn’t communicate, I wanted to make sure I avoided any collision between the two of us. So I just kind of eased up on it right there.”

Braves 2, Astros 0 (box score)

Matzek retired the next three Astros on a strikeout and two popouts. Houston had pinch-runner Jose Siri reach third on a stolen base and error, but he was left stranded when Michael Brantley popped out to third baseman Austin Riley. Will Smith surrendered a hit but nothing further to finish the ninth.

It was the 18th two-hit shutout in World Series history and first since the 2012 Giants achieved such in Game 2 against the Cardinals.

“The no-hitter is cool and all, but what it comes down to is we want to win the game,” Matzek said. “Snit trusted the bullpen to come in and do our job. I think Ian probably would say the same thing. I’m sure he would have loved to go out there and try for a no-hitter, but I think he’d take the win every day of the week over a no-hitter because he’s not a selfish guy. He wants to win. He wants to go out there and win the World Series. And if it gives us a chance to do that, that’s what he’s going to do.”

The Braves managed their early lead thanks to Riley, who roped an RBI double off Astros starter Luis Garcia down the left-field line in the third inning. Riley has a double in three of his past four games. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud added insurance with a solo shot off Kendall Graveman in the eighth, his second home run of the series.

It was the Braves’ sixth consecutive home victory this postseason, trailing only eight straight wins across the 1995-96 runs for the longest such streak in franchise history. It was an emotional day from the start as the team aired a tribute to MLB icon Hank Aaron, who died in January, before the game. Aaron’s family, including his wife Billye, was present. Hank Jr. threw out the first pitch.

“I got to hug Billye,” Snitker said, pausing as he held back tears. “And tell her how much I missed Hank.”

Game 4 is Saturday evening at Truist Park. The Braves will use a bullpen game. The Astros will start veteran Zack Greinke.