Ian Anderson solid but Braves commit 4 errors in loss to Marlins

Braves pitcher Ian Anderson delivers against the Miami Marlins during the first inning in a MLB baseball game on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 in Atlanta.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Caption
Braves pitcher Ian Anderson delivers against the Miami Marlins during the first inning in a MLB baseball game on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

If Ian Anderson’s performance Thursday was a postseason indicator, the Braves will happily take it.

In a rain-delayed, rain-drenched affair, Anderson pitched 5-2/3 innings, allowing three runs – but none earned – in the Braves' 4-2 loss to the Marlins at Truist Park. The Braves took three of four from Miami, which is battling for a spot in the playoffs.

The Braves would’ve clinched the National League’s No. 2 seed with a victory. Instead, they’re one win or a Cubs' loss away from securing the second spot.

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A 7:10 p.m. start was delayed until 8:45 p.m. due to rain, and during Anderson’s first inning of work, it appeared the game might be in jeopardy. The rain grew so vicious that Ronald Acuna almost missed a fly ball in center field for the second out.

But the game continued, and the rain calmed down as Anderson completed a scoreless first. Anderson pitched around baserunners in every inning, though some of it will be attributed to an off night for the Braves defense. They committed four errors; third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria (twice), shortstop Dansby Swanson and second baseman Ozzie Albies all committed errors with Anderson on the mound.

The baserunners didn’t haunt him until the sixth. Brian Anderson began the inning by reaching on Hechavarria’s second error, which made it five consecutive innings a Marlins lead-off man reached – and third time it occurred because of an error.

Garrett Cooper followed with a single that moved Anderson to third. The Braves' Anderson responded confidently, striking out Matt Joyce and Miguel Rojas, again positioning himself to escape an inning. But Chad Wallach drove a middle-fastball to right field to score the game’s first run.

Jon Berti, who was 2-for-2 entering the at-bat, doubled off an elevated change-up. It scored a pair of runs while Berti took third on Albies' throwing error. Anderson was lifted at 104 pitches – a good number considering he won’t pitch again for a week – and A.J. Minter finished the frame by striking out Corey Dickerson.

“I thought it was good,” Anderson said, assessing his outing. “I thought I stayed on the attack all night and pounded the zone, getting weak contact and some good results. I’m happy with how it went.”

Anderson excelled in his rookie season so much that he’s now a critical component of his team’s playoff hopes. The 22-year-old made six starts, earning a 1.95 ERA in 32-1/3 innings. He notably posted a 41:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio, giving the Braves a consistent strike-thrower at a time they were desperate.

The right-hander defeated Gerrit Cole and the Yankees in his first start. His encore was defeating the lowly Red Sox at Fenway Park. He exceeded five innings in four of his six outings, including his best start Sept. 12, when he held the Nationals to one hit over seven scoreless innings.

While most of the Braves' young pitchers have required patience, Anderson has not. He stepped into a situation where stability was urgently needed. Under pressure, without even the benefit of preparing with minor-league starts, Anderson proved major-league ready immediately.

“I feel real confident about him,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Just the way he’s handled all the different situations that have been put in front of him. I feel really good about him starting that second game.”

About that “second game” Snitker mentioned: Anderson’s next start will come in the best-of-three wild-card round, which will be played at Truist Park next week. He’ll follow ace Max Fried, who will pitch Game 1. That means Anderson’s next turn will be a game that either a) be a series-clincher, if the Braves took the first contest, or b) will be a must-win to force a winner-take-all Game 3.

Anderson has shown the maturity, consistency and mental strength to ease concerns about throwing an inexperienced rookie into the postseason fire.

“I have a week here to get ready for what’s next,” Anderson said. “I think we’ll have a good game plan going in. … It’s going to be super exciting. This is what you dream about, coming up here and making an impact and getting a chance to pitch in the postseason. I know everyone in the locker room has a ton of confidence going in. We’re inching to get out there and play some October baseball.”

Notes from Thursday:

- The Braves committed 28 errors in 56 games before Thursday. They were tied with the Indians and Cubs – also playoff-bound clubs – for the seventh fewest in the majors. Consider Thursday an anomaly; the wet, dirty conditions didn’t help either.

“A couple of them (were influenced by the conditions),” Snitker said. “That ball was hard to get ahold of. I know a couple guys, Ozzie did one and Dansby was just off the mark a little bit. Coming off that grass, it was pretty slick. It was a tough night, especially early on. It was wet. Both teams did a good job not letting it get to them. They handled the situation and played a decent ballgame.”

- Marlins starter Pablo Lopez was annihilated in his last start against the Braves, charged with seven runs in 1-2/3 innings. The Braves would go on to post a modern NL-record 29 runs that night.

Thursday was a different story. Lopez allowed two hits over five scoreless innings. Acuna led off the first with a single, stole second but didn’t advance. Adam Duvall had a one-out single in the second but likewise wasn’t advanced.

Freddie Freeman was hit by a pitch and Marcell Ozuna walked with two outs in the third, but Lopez drew a shallow pop out from Travis d’Arnaud. Only one more Brave reached base in the next two innings against Lopez.

- Like the defense, it was an rare night for the historically great Braves offense. Swanson’s bases-loaded single in the eighth scored their only two runs.

- Freeman was 4-for-13 in the series entering Thursday, but the MVP candidate went 0-for-3 with a walk in the finale. Freeman has three more games to pad his resume.

- Before the game, the Braves and MLB unveiled the 2021 All-Star Game logo. The next Midsummer Classic will be held in Atlanta for the first time since 2000 and third time overall.

“I can’t wait for the 2021 All-Star game here in Atlanta,” said Hall of Famer and Atlanta icon Hank Aaron. Read details about the 2021 All-Star Game here.

- The Braves will host the Red Sox for the final three games of the regular season. Kyle Wright will have his final tune-up Friday, when he’ll try to build on his recent success since returning from the alternate training site.

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