Anderson opens '24 with scoreless debut in Angels' win

April 3rd, 2024

MIAMI -- Angels manager Ron Washington joked pregame on Tuesday that he wasn’t worried about how many arms were available in the bullpen, because, “We’re expecting [] to throw nine innings.”

Well, Washington wasn’t that far off.

Anderson threw seven scoreless innings, holding the Marlins to four hits in the Angels’ 3-1 win at loanDepot park, securing the series win for Los Angeles.

“He’s a pro,” Washington said. “Once he threw first-pitch strikes, he worked off that change-speed very well and kept them off balance. And that’s what we needed. … It’s a huge boost for everyone. If we can get this kind of performance -- that’s what we shoot for out of every one of our starters.”

Anderson got off to a hot start right away, cruising through a seven-pitch first inning in which every one of his offerings was a strike.

The outing, which was Anderson’s season debut, went a long way in showcasing what Anderson hopes will be a season-long return to form. The 2023 campaign was a down year for Anderson (5.43 ERA), who signed a three-year deal with the Angels in November 2022 coming off an All-Star showing with the Dodgers.

During Spring Training, Anderson discussed what went wrong last year and what he’s done to right the ship. The key was how he uses his body, making sure he’s consistent and not trying to throw hard. Anderson finds success when he forces soft contact and utilizes his defense for outs, rather than try to strike out every batter he faces.

On Tuesday, Anderson did just that. He struck out five batters while inducing eight groundouts and six flyouts. Only once did a Marlin make contact with an exit velo above 97 mph -- an Avisaíl García groundout with a Statcast-projected 106.6 exit velocity in the fifth inning.

“[There are times] where I'm like -- things aren't feeling good -- and I'm like, 'Shoot I have to get going here,'” Anderson said. “Like, I have to figure out some way to feel a little better and get some energy. And today I felt really good, and I had to slow myself down instead. Which for me is a good place to be.”

“He did everything possible to keep us in the game and [keep us] winning,” said Aaron Hicks. “He did a phenomenal job.”

The southpaw had some big help from both the offense and the defense, though; Hicks notched two hits, including his first long ball of the year to put Los Angeles on the board in the fourth inning, and Zach Neto made a slick play in the bottom of the sixth to catch Josh Bell at first base.

Both Anderson and Washington highlighted that sixth-inning play by Neto as one of two big defensive moments that helped the Angels gain momentum with key outs.

“I know there was some talk about our defense early, the first couple of games,” Anderson said. “But I feel like since then, things have been tightened up and we've just done a good job. Neto made a great play there. [And] there were some other plays that honestly -- even some hits that should have been hits and we were really close to making the outs too. You just feel like you're in a good spot.”

One of those other plays happened in the second inning, when the Marlins had runners on first and second with one out. Miami attempted a double steal -- and would have succeeded, as Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Tim Anderson got massive jumps -- but García saw a pitch he liked and decided to swing. He flew out to center field, forcing Chisholm and Anderson to return to their original bases.

But Chisholm didn’t re-touch third base before returning to second, stepping over the bag instead. The Angels’ dugout caught the mistake, and, per Anderson, was yelling at the fielders to throw to third to retire Chisholm.

“I think everybody from the dugout was yelling, letting them know,” Anderson said. “Yeah, the dugout was super on it, which is huge -- to have 30 guys in the dugout, everyone's screaming, ‘Three, three, three,’ to throw it there.

“[It was] huge. I mean, he had third base stolen, so that was great to have him go back and we get two outs of an inning over [it], it was huge.”