Ozuna hits 3 homers, Anderson impresses again in Braves’ win

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Braves' Marcell Ozuna details his approach at the plate Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, as he surpassed 1,000 hits on his career with three homers.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Ian Anderson has people wondering why the Braves didn’t promote him sooner. Marcell Ozuna has people wondering if the Braves can keep him longer.

One turn after defeating the Yankees, Anderson and the Braves beat the Red Sox 10-3 at Fenway Park on Tuesday. Ozuna, the designated hitter, provided a large chunk of the run support by hitting three home runs and posting six RBIs.

“I was excited when we got him, to have that bat on our side,” manager Brian Snitker said of Ozuna. “He has such confidence. I don’t know that I’ve seen a guy who loves playing more than him. He’s always laughing. Just talking to him when he’s in the hole sometimes, he has a really good idea of what he’s doing at the plate, too. You love seeing a guy like that get it going because they can literally carry you.”

Anderson can say he began his career by slaying both the big-market American League East powers, even if this Red Sox team is a far, far cry from 2018. He’s only the second pitcher to defeat the Yankees and Red Sox in his first two major-league starts, joining Cleveland’s Luis Tiant (1964).

“That’s awesome,” Anderson said. “A weird scenario for a National League team and pitcher. Coming up with the Braves, you wouldn’t think you’d make your debut against two American League teams. But it’s 2020, (a unique) season. It’s been great so far.”

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The 22-year-old looks like the veteran, strike-throwing acquisition so many thought the Braves would add at the trade deadline. Pitching with added adrenaline against his childhood favorite team, Anderson, an upstate New York native, held the Red Sox to two runs over six innings.

Anderson struck out eight while issuing only one walk, avoiding the maddening command problems that’ve plagued most of his colleagues. He is the only Braves starter besides Max Fried to pitch two six-inning outings this season. The Braves are 10-0 in those starts.

In his first two appearances, Anderson has a 2.25 ERA, striking out 14 and walking three over 12 innings. He’s held Yankees and Red Sox hitters to a .163 average.

“You love the composure and mound presence, the confidence,” Snitker said. “He just keeps throwing strikes. When he gets in trouble, he doesn’t panic. He just keeps pitching. He’s a very mature-looking kid as a young pitcher. He has a great demeanor. He slows the game down. There’s a lot of really good things when you watch him out there.”

Ozuna, meanwhile, posted his first three-homer game and third multi-homer game with the Braves. It was the 25th time a visiting player has hit three home runs at Fenway Park and the first time it was done by National Leaguer.

Anderson was spotted a two-run lead when Ozuna hit a monstrous blast over the green monster in the first. His seventh-inning solo shot was hit even harder in the same direction. His third, a three-run homer in the eighth, went so deep to center that its distance hasn’t yet been properly recorded.

“Everyone was talking about it,” Anderson said. “Guys who’ve played here before several times said that’s the farthest ball they’ve seen hit here. Just the sound of it, you knew that thing was going a long way.”

A giddy Anderson added “He’s hit four homers in the two games I’ve pitched so far. He’s helped me out a ton.”

Ozuna has helped more than just Anderson. When the Braves lost slugger Josh Donaldson in free agency, they turned to Ozuna, hoping he could replicate a chunk of the production on a one-year deal. They haven’t missed a beat: Ozuna would be on a 50-homer pace in a normal season. He’s every bit the potent bat that Donaldson was.

“As good as Josh was, you look at what Ozuna has done here in the same period of time, he’s been unbelievable for a four-week, five-week span here,” Snitker said. “That has the makings of a monster 162-game year, what he’s doing right now.”

Ozuna said he used the virus-induced break to get himself into better shape. He said his family helped with that cause, pushing and reminding him to work out. He felt he was much better prepared entering July’s camp than he was in February, when he got off to a slow start in spring training.

With the season more than halfway over, it’s fair to say the Ozuna signing was a resounding success. Since the designated hitter could be permanent in the National League, perhaps the Braves try to extend his Atlanta tenure beyond 2020. They might be in for another offseason revolving around a free-agent bopper.

“This is a really good team,” Ozuna said. “We have so much talent. I feel happy to be here and be part of it.”

Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson (48) smiles as he talks to catcher Travis d'Arnaud at the end of the fourth inning Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in Boston.
Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson (48) smiles as he talks to catcher Travis d'Arnaud at the end of the fourth inning Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in Boston.

Credit: Mary Schwalm

Credit: Mary Schwalm

Notes from Tuesday:

- Ozuna wasn’t the Braves’ only valuable offseason lineup addition. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud had a three-hit night, raising his season slash line to .325/.360/.530 in 22 games. Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte and Ozuna also had multi-hit games.

- First baseman Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak with an RBI-single in the eighth inning. He’s reached the 15-game mark, which is halfway to his career-best streak.

- The Braves are going for a sweep Wednesday with lefty Robbie Erlin on the mound. They’ve already clinched their first series win at Boston since sweeping a series in 2002.

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