ATLANTA -- Ian Anderson has been a big leaguer only 410 days, counting back to his Braves debut on Aug. 26, 2020.
Monday afternoon, however, will be his fifth postseason start.
It provides Atlanta a level of comfort and confidence entering Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Brewers at Truist Park. Anderson, 23, has the opportunity to give the Braves a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. He is up to the challenge.
Anderson had only six regular-season starts under his belt last season when he pitched six scoreless innings in the NL Wild Card Series clincher against the Reds on Oct. 1, 2020. He started his postseason career with 15 2/3 scoreless innings in his first three starts before he allowed his first runs in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers.
“I think I’ll be a little bit more comfortable,” Anderson said Sunday afternoon. “There’s not going to be those first-time nerves, because I did go through it last year and I got that experience. So I think it's going to be just channeling that energy from the crowd and not getting too overhyped, just sticking to my game and kind of what [Game 1 starter Charlie Morton and Game 2 starter Max Fried] did.”
Ah, yes, the fans. Anderson pitched last season without them because of the pandemic. Monday should be a packed house.
“I think I've definitely come a long way from making my first home start in front of fans earlier in the season,” Anderson said. “This is going to be another step. And I know the fans are going to bring it. And I'm looking forward to it.”
Anderson went 9-5 with a 3.58 ERA in 24 starts this season. He missed seven weeks in the middle of the year because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Anderson then walked six with zero strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings in his first two starts back.
But Anderson started to find his groove in his final four outings, including Sept. 30, when he allowed two runs in six innings against the Phillies to clinch Atlanta’s fourth consecutive National League East title. Anderson struck out 26 and walked eight in 23 2/3 innings in that span, allowing two earned runs or fewer in three of the four starts.
“What I did last year has given me confidence at this time of year,” Anderson said. “And I feel like since I've come back from my injury, it's kind of been a little bit of a slower progression than I wanted, but I feel like I'm in a good spot repertoire-wise and delivery-wise. I feel good going into it.”
“Once he gets settled in, you can kind of see early, a feel for his pitches, command of his fastball, feel for his changeup,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “And I think that's another thing in the maturity category-type thing as he learns to do that. But he's been pitching really well, I think.”
Anderson allowed one run on two hits in six innings against the Brewers on May 15. He struck out four and walked four.
But this start against Milwaukee will be different. The stakes are much higher in October than in May. Anderson knows it. Fortunately, he knows what to expect, too.
“I think there's just a heightened sense of everything,” Anderson said. “Everything you're feeling. The focus can be heightened. The nerves and everything can just be brought up a little bit more with that big crowd. And it's just kind of how you deal with that.
“I don't know. I think there's just something about being the pitcher. You start the game. The game can't start without you. And that's something I've heard from my dad. I've heard from coaches coming up. I've heard from Kranny [pitching coach Rick Kranitz]. You're in control. So if something doesn't feel right, you don't have to go. You can step off, do things like that. So I think that's part of what I enjoy most about being a pitcher. And I think that's something that is definitely something to keep in mind when you're out there and the game speeds up and the crowd gets loud.”