Anderson's playoff mystique grows after gem

23-year-old boasts 0.76 ERA through first five postseason starts

October 12th, 2021

ATLANTA -- Ian Anderson’s name does not lend itself to an autumnal play on words like Joc Pederson’s "Joctober." He doesn’t own a pearl necklace, either.

Well, not as far as anybody knows anyway.

But Anderson continues to pave his own October path, pitching five scoreless innings in Monday afternoon’s 3-0 victory over the Brewers in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Truist Park. He allowed three hits and struck out six, helping Atlanta take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. It boosted Anderson’s already impressive postseason résumé: a 0.76 ERA in five playoff starts in only two years in the big leagues.

“Every situation, he’s handled beautifully,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said after the game. “Even throughout this year with some of the adversity and the ups and downs and the little shoulder injury that had him on IL for a little bit; to come back and really find his groove, especially toward the end and into the playoffs, it’s just remarkable to see a guy compete like that. That's what it comes down to -- the compete factor. I love being able to play behind him.”

Anderson found himself in trouble only once Monday, when he had runners on second and third with no outs in the fifth. It was then that Lorenzo Cain smashed a ball to Swanson, who made a diving stop to his right and a perfect throw to first for the first out. In the next at-bat, Austin Riley fielded a ground ball from pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach and threw out Luis Urías after a rundown for the second out. Kolten Wong lined out to Freddie Freeman to end the inning.

Anderson otherwise baffled the Brewers, who haven't scored in 19 consecutive innings (since the seventh inning of Game 1 on Friday). He got 10 whiffs on 18 swings at his changeup. It was the third-highest whiff rate (55.6 percent) on his changeup in his career, including the postseason. Anderson threw 31 changeups out of 84 pitches overall (37 percent), a slightly higher rate than his season average (31.4 percent).

“It was the changeup for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I thought there were times when the hitters ... they were looking for it and we just didn't hit it.”

“I faced it the other day,” Swanson said, referring to a live batting practice session he took against Anderson. “It was [my] first time ever seeing it. It's pretty frickin’ good. And I think today, kind of like how Craig mentioned it, even sometimes when you're looking at it, sometimes it's so good it's hard to square up. I feel the location is really the biggest thing. And I feel like Ian was throwing it in good spots all day. And it's hard to hit when pitchers throw it where they want it, even if you know it's coming. Or if you're looking for it, it's tough.”

Anderson got four of his six strikeouts on his changeup, each one of them swinging. Cain’s grounder in the fifth came on a first-pitch changeup. He evened the count to 2-2 with Vogelbach in the fifth after he fouled off a changeup.

“It was definitely a good pitch today,” Anderson said. “I saw Charlie [Morton] and Max [Fried] have success with the big curveball. It’s tempting to go to that, but that's not really my style.”

It is a style that works for the 23-year-old right-hander. It is a style that helped the Braves move within a game of reaching the NL Championship Series for the second consecutive year.

“In a short Major League career, he’s pitched a lot of postseason games,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He went to bed [last year] knowing he had the NLCS deciding game, Game 7; that's huge for a young kid. And today. That's the thing that attracts you to Ian, why he's going to be so good.”