That something was a perfect game into the sixth inning, a no-hitter into the eighth and a shutout bid into the ninth of what became a 4-2 Brewers win over the Cubs on Tuesday at Miller Park. Juan Nieves' gem in Baltimore on April 15, 1987, still stands as the only no-hitter in franchise history, but Anderson's consolation prize was a starring role in the Brewers' most complete victory this season.
They pitched, with Anderson working a career-high 8 2/3 innings and allowing three Cubs hits: Ben Zobrist's double leading off the eighth, and solo home runs for Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant with two outs in the ninth.
They hit, with Jonathan Lucroy's sixth home run putting the Brewers on the board before three crucial insurance runs in the sixth.
"They were wearing me out, but I was like, 'I'm sorry.' I've never done that before," Lucroy said. "I think I had a pretty good excuse for being locked in. You can't help it. You're so focused. I don't want to call the wrong pitch and a guy whack it, and then it's my fault."
For most of the night, catcher and pitcher were on the same page. Anderson retired the Cubs' first 16 hitters before walking catcher Miguel Montero with one out in the sixth. Anderson bounced back with strikeouts of Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler to keep the no-hit bid alive, and Brewers batters responded by chasing Hendricks from the game with their three-run rally.
Anderson remained on course in a 1-2-3 seventh, but was ambushed by Zobrist leading off the eighth. The switch-hitting second baseman smacked a first-pitch fastball over Nieuwenhuis' head for a no-doubt double.
"All I could think about was, 'What could I have done different?'" Nieuwenhuis said. "Could I have played him a little bit deeper? I got a little turned around. It's unfortunate, for sure. That's all I could think about the rest of the game."
Anderson stranded Zobrist aboard and was at 97 pitches when he became the first Brewers starting pitcher to take the mound in the ninth inning this season. He retired the first two batters and was ahead of Heyward, 0-2, before Heyward smacked his first home run of the season to dash Anderson's bid for a shutout.
When Bryant followed two pitches later with another home run, manager Craig Counsell called for relief. Jeremy Jeffress recorded the final out for the save.
Anderson improved to 2-5 in what has been a roller-coaster season. Acquired in an offseason trade with Arizona, he was hit hard in Spring Training but did not allow an earned run in either of his first two starts of the regular season. Anderson had lost each of his five starts since with an 8.88 ERA, though his most recent outing in Miami (six innings, three hits, three earned runs) provided a steppingstone to Tuesday.
"When you execute pitches, I think that you can get anyone out, no matter who it is," Anderson said. "You can put nine Ken Griffey Jrs. up there, but if you execute pitches, it's hard to hit. When you don't execute, those guys make you pay. You saw it in the last inning."