The Braves defeated the Diamondbacks 6-2 Saturday behind a needed rebound from Ian Anderson. They can complete the three-game sweep with a victory Sunday.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday:
1. Anderson was reeling. His struggles led many to opine he’d benefit from a stint in Triple-A. He desperately needed an encouraging performance. He produced one.
Anderson pitched six scoreless innings, allowing one hit, striking out nine and walking just one. He retired the first 14 Diamondbacks and only allowed one runner to reach scoring position.
“More conviction tonight,” Anderson said. “I went into it with the mentality of just ‘eff it,’ in a way, and attack. It freed me up a little bit.”
And yes, it was “only” the Diamondbacks, who dropped to 45-55. But Anderson was shelled his last time out against the lifeless Angels (42-58 entering Saturday). He needed a confidence builder, a game that could perhaps help push him in the right direction. Maybe this one was the ignitor for which he searched.
“I think sometimes, in this business, you have to (say screw it),” manager Brian Snitker said of Anderson’s mindset. “Just let her fly. Being careful, trying to be perfect doesn’t work most of the time.”
2. The fifth could’ve stained Anderson’s outing. He surrendered a two-out double to Jake McCarthy, saw McCarthy steal third then issued a four-pitch walk to Buddy Kennedy. Anderson struck out Geraldo Perdomo on five pitches to escape the inning. He pitched a clean sixth to end his night.
“I know him well, we had some time in the minors together, we have a good connection; he had everything going tonight,” catcher William Contreras said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “He had all three pitches going. I’m really happy for him. Happy to see him have that kind of performance.”
3. A rediscovered curveball helped key Anderson’s success. He threw 23 curveballs (of 97 pitches), generating four whiffs on eight swings along with five called strikes. Anderson’s calling card will always be his change-up, which induced seven whiffs on 18 swings Saturday, but when his curveball is on, it’s the perfect third pitch.
“Just trying to be more free and easy,” Anderson said. “It’s big. You don’t see too many guys succeeding with two pitches. … You need that third pitch to keep guys off balance and get through the lineup two or three times. Even earlier in the season, I feel like I had some games where I got through the lineup pretty good two times, then the third time got me. It’s nice to have all three going.”
4. Contreras posted his third career multi-homer game – all coming this season – with home runs off Corbin Martin in the second and fourth innings. The All-Star has four homers and seven RBIs in 13 games this month (42 at-bats).
Contreras needed a breakout game of his own. He’s hit .211 (8-for-38) this month.
“It’s incredible,” Contreras said. “We all know how it was going for me the past couple weeks. Fortunately, I was able to make adjustments. I want to give credit and thank (Robinson) Cano, (Eddie) Rosario, (Marcell) Ozuna, all the guys who’ve put in time to help me make those adjustments as well.”
Snitker: “It’s nice when you have a backup catcher who can do that damage. You can split the job between those two guys (Travis d’Arnaud and Contreras) and get a lot of production out of the position.”
5. Matt Olson put the Braves ahead quickly with a solo shot off Corbin Martin in the first inning. It was Olson’s ninth homer in 25 games this month; he had 12 over the first 77. It was presumed some of those doubles would turn into home runs and they are. Olson’s 35 doubles still lead the majors.
Stat to know
1 and 9 -- Anderson allowed one hit, a season low. He also struck out nine, his most since fanning nine Rockies on June 2.)
“We’re pulling for him, that’s for sure.” - Snitker on the organizational support for Anderson
Outfielder Eddie Rosario laced his first triple Saturday, a continuation of his improved play. Rosario had a couple of two-hit efforts earlier this week in Philadelphia.
The Braves inducted three more individuals into their team Hall of Fame during alumni weekend: Leo Mazzone, Joe Torre and Joe Adcock (posthumously). Mazzone and Torre addressed the crowd during a pregame ceremony Saturday as their plaques were unveiled. The Braves Hall of Fame now includes 38 individuals who had a significant impact on the franchise’s history.
The Braves and D-Backs finish their season series Sunday. Max Fried (10-3, 2.73) will oppose right-hander Merrill Kelly (10-5, 3.04) in a battle of aces.