In an organization rich with Hall of Fame-caliber pitching, it’s not exactly easy for players to climb up the Braves’ all-time ranks -- especially for a 22-year-old rookie.
But right-hander Ian Anderson is doing just that with a stretch of 15 2/3 scoreless innings this postseason. He extended his streak by throwing four scoreless frames in the Braves’ 8-7 win over the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
With the victory, the Braves secured a 2-0 series lead.
“I think it’s just the ability to kind of bear down and keep that guy from crossing home plate,” Anderson said. “I think that’s something that you need -- whether it be playoffs, regular season -- in big spots. I think that’s something that just has to be ingrained in you if you want to be able to have some success.”
Even with less than two months of experience at the big league level, Anderson already holds the fourth-longest streak of scoreless innings in Braves playoff history -- and he's closing in on No. 3. He trails only Lew Burdette (24 innings, 1957), Tom Glavine (18 innings, 1995-96) and Steve Avery (16 1/3 innings, '91). This stretch also ranks sixth among Major League pitchers to begin their playoff career as a starter.
And in just his first postseason, Anderson is the first pitcher since Christy Mathewson in 1905 to throw at least four scoreless innings in each of his first three career postseason outings. He did so on Tuesday despite becoming the first pitcher in playoff history to walk five batters without allowing a run in a start of four innings or fewer.
"He’s got ice in his veins,” said veteran reliever Mark Melancon. “Every time, I’m so impressed. It’s special. Ian, you would never know he’s 22 years old. He’s so mature. I’m so happy for him."
Anderson fanned five, walked five and allowed one hit, but he did labor. The Dodgers made him throw 29 pitches in the first inning and pushed his pitch count to 85 through four innings, which necessitated the entry of reliever Tyler Matzek to start the fifth.
Anderson’s postseason strikeout total is up to 22, tying the franchise record set in 1991 by Avery and John Smoltz for the most by a Braves pitcher in his first three playoff appearances.
“He was just really working,” manager Brian Snitker said. “There was traffic, he did a great job of never giving in, he kept pitching. He was off, as evidenced by the walks and the pitch count. He wasn’t real sharp; it’s going to happen. But to his credit, he kept things manageable, didn’t let an inning get out of hand, and what a great trait for a young pitcher. … He did a good job of holding the game in check right there.”
The Braves saw Anderson's potential four years ago, when they selected him with the third overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 26, and he pitched to a 3-2 record and a 1.95 ERA in 32 1/3 frames over six starts. In his first two career playoff appearances (both starts), he tossed six frames in the Wild Card Series against the Reds and 5 2/3 innings in the NL Division Series vs. the Marlins.
“This one was kind of the one you can almost take a little bit more pride in,” said Anderson, who took the mound in front of his family for the first time as a big leaguer. “That’s a good lineup, and really having to battle through that and pull out a huge team win all around, it’s one that I’ll probably look back on -- however this ends up going -- and I think I’ll kind of be able to point at this one and say, ‘That was the one I was most proud of up to this point.’”
Anderson’s Game 2 performance was just the latest by a young Braves pitcher on the big stage. It followed 26-year-old Max Fried’s nine-strikeout showcase in a 5-1 Game 1 win, and it precedes 25-year-old Kyle Wright’s Game 3 start on Wednesday night.
“It does excite me, because these are young guys with skills and talent and stuff,” Snitker said. “What an unbelievable experience this is for them and to get to feel this stage. They’ve all handled it unbelievable. I keep saying that you can’t replicate this anywhere, and they’ve passed all the tests.”