Not many MLB debuts will possess the pizzazz of Ian Anderson’s.

The 22-year-old righty outdueled $324 million-man Gerrit Cole and defeated the New York Yankees.

The Braves made Cole look like the rookie, hitting three homers off him in a 5-1 victory at Truist Park. While the Braves teed off on a Cy Young winner, Anderson held the Yankees hitless across his first 5-1/3 innings. It was the longest no-hit bid by a Braves pitcher in his debut since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.

“I probably won’t take this smile off my face for a long time,” said Anderson, who appeared as calm and collected in his postgame interview as he was on the mound.

Anderson’s start was Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader, which the Braves swept. Game 2 was a pitcher’s duel between Max Fried and Masahiro Tanaka, with Freddie Freeman’s late home run rewarding the Braves a 2-1 win. Both games were shortened to seven innings in accordance with MLB’s doubleheader rules for the 2020 season.

The story of the day was on the mound in the afternoon. One couldn’t ask for much more out of Anderson, who allowed one run on one hit, struck out six and walked two over six innings. The Braves have seen many young pitchers make their first starts in recent years; few, if any, were better than Anderson was Wednesday.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Braves pitcher Ian Anderson discusses making his major league debut Aug. 26, 2020, against the Yankees at Truist Park in Atlanta.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Anderson allowed four baserunners over the first five innings, facing three over the minimum. He retired the first eight Yankees before walking Tyler Wade with two outs in the third.

“Early on, there were definitely nerves going,” Anderson said. “It was a good nervousness, an excitement to get out there and prove myself. As the game went on they settled down, and I was able to get into a groove. It went well.”

The only real danger situation he encountered was in the fourth, when an Austin Riley error and a walk gave the Yankees two baserunners with one out. Anderson responded by getting Gio Urshela to hit into an inning-ending double play.

His no-hitter was broken up with one down in sixth, when Luke Voit homered on the first pitch of the at-bat. Anderson didn’t unravel, retiring Aaron Hicks and Mike Ford to end his debut. Manager Brian Snitker indicated the sixth was going to be Anderson’s final inning even if he hadn’t allowed a hit, especially knowing a seven-inning no-hitter wouldn’t count as an official one, per MLB rules.

While he wished his family and friends could’ve attended, Anderson acknowledged that pitching in an empty Truist Park might’ve been to his benefit.

“I definitely think it helped me relax,” Anderson said. “I haven’t gotten a chance to ask anyone what it’s like with fans in the stands. That’s what I was going to do after. But it helped me relax and realize it’s still the same game. That helped me a bit.”

Anderson did something other young Braves pitchers haven’t figured out: He pounded the strike zone, which is easier said than done. Anderson was in complete control, showing a confidence that’s rarely seen from a Braves starter other than Max Fried. In fact, he became the first Braves starter besides Fried to earn a statistical win.

“Just the look on his face,” Snitker said. “He was smiling. The moment didn’t seem real big to him. That was pretty impressive. The demeanor. He slowed it down well, he had confidence in his pitches, trusted his stuff and got right in the strike zone with those guys. That was fun to watch.”

Desperate for reliable starting pitching, one of the Braves’ answers might’ve resided in Lawrenceville all along. Anderson has been working out at the alternate training site since camp opened in early July, drawing praise while hidden away from the cameras and game action.

And sure, the Yankees were down several power bats in their usually threatening lineup, but that won’t belittle Anderson’s efficient dominance. Wednesday was the first of what could be many memorable starts in his Braves career.

“It’s hard to even put into words (how good Anderson was),” Freeman said. “How he was acting in the clubhouse yesterday, acting calm and cool. He’s a chatty guy before he starts. Not one of the headphones, stay-at-his-locker kind of guys. Very loose and relaxed. Maybe the rainout (Tuesday) helped him because he already had a day of preparation going into it. He was ready for this start. You could tell that he was meant to pitch. We have a good one, right there.”

Notes from Game 1:

- In his first at-bat since Aug. 10, Ronald Acuna hit a 473-foot homer off Cole to immediately put the Braves ahead. It was the longest of his career, and also the longest hit by a Brave in Truist Park history. Acuna had been on the 10-day injured list with left wrist inflammation.

- Cole walked Acuna in the third, which haunted him after Dansby Swanson belted a ball to right field for a 3-0 lead. Marcell Ozuna followed with a 469-foot homer of his own, giving the Braves three long balls off one of baseball’s best aces.

- The offense had five hits off Cole. four of which went for extra bases. One of the two that didn’t land in the seats was Nick Markakis’ lead-off single in the third.

Markakis went 2-for-3 with an RBI in his own return from the injured list. Markakis hit his 506th career double in the sixth inning, which tied Babe Ruth for 58th on baseball’s all-time list.

Braves' Freddie Freeman reacts to hitting a 2-run homer that proves to be the game winner for a 2-1 lead over the New York Yankees.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Braves' Freddie Freeman reacts to hitting a 2-run homer that proves to be the game winner for a 2-1 lead over the New York Yankees. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Notes from Game 2:

- Freeman’s late heroics completed the sweep. With his team down 1-0, Freeman slapped a two-run homer to left off Yankees reliever Chad Green with two outs in the sixth. It set up a save situation for Mark Melancon, who recorded three outs to end it.

“It was really, really big,” Freeman said of the sweep. “Especially in a 60-game season. When you have two games in one day, it can definitely go the opposite direction. When you have starts like we did today, that set the tone early. Ian was absolutely phenomenal and Max followed it up with another brilliant performance.”

- Fried was once again a steady hand, allowing one run on four hits across six innings. Tanaka was a shade better, shutting out the Braves over his five innings. Certainly, the Yankees might regret lifting him at 66 pitches. Tanaka allowed three hits and didn’t allow a Brave to advance to second base.

Freeman declared Fried the Braves’ first-half MVP following the game. The southpaw owns a 1.35 ERA and 38:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first seven starts. He’s firmly entrenched in the National League Cy Young conversation, putting Fried in the company of Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish and Jacob deGrom.

“I’m happy with how the year has gone, with the team,” Fried said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries. We’ve had an uphill battle. A lot of teams around have had to do it. For me, it’s just going out there and trying to win the game when I have the opportunity.”

- The Braves moved to 4-0 in seven-inning doubleheader games. They also swept the Phillies in Philadelphia during a Sunday doubleheader earlier this month.

“We seem to like these seven-inning games,” Freeman said. “That’s 4-0. Maybe we should rain out a couple more.”

- Wednesday’s doubleheader completed the first half of the Braves’ schedule. They’re 18-12 with 30 games remaining. Their remaining schedule includes NL East opponents, the rebuilding Orioles and the lowly Red Sox.

In the NL East, the Braves are 1-1/2 games up on the Marlins, four up on the Phillies, five ahead of the Mets and six ahead of the Nationals. The Braves, especially considering what they’ve overcome thus far while managing the tougher portions of their schedule, are the clear division favorites.

- The Braves are off Thursday before beginning a six-game trip. They’ll face the Phillies and Red Sox before opening the next seven-game homestand with a doubleheader against the Nationals on Sept. 4.

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