Anderson went six innings without allowing a hit before Wil Myers poked a weak single to right field after a leadoff walk to Manny Machado.
“I think if I don’t walk Machado to lead that off, that ball is hit right to [first baseman Colin] Moran,” Anderson said. “I think that was a good at-bat by him. There was a big hole over there with a guy on first. He was just trying to shoot it.”
Tommy Pham plated the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly, then Austin Nola drove in Myers on an RBI double to chase Anderson. But all things considered, it was still by far Anderson’s best outing of the season.
"That’s a playoff-caliber lineup and probably about as good of a lineup as we’re going to face, especially for him with all the right-handers in there,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He was outstanding.”
The approach was strike-heavy out of the gate for Anderson. The left-hander needed only 41 pitches to get through four innings, the fewest he’s needed in four innings of an outing in his six-year MLB career.
It appeared Anderson had given up his first hit in the fifth inning -- twice, in fact. After falling behind leadoff batter Myers three balls to none, he worked the count full before surrendering a sharp 101 mph grounder. However, Erik González, who has stepped up at third base in Ke’Bryan Hayes’ absence, made a stunning snag deep down the third-base line and fired a hopper to first base for the out.
“Gonzo’s a great defender,” Anderson said. “You put him at shortstop, you put him at third -- wherever he’s at, he plays good defense.”
Then, Jake Cronenworth chopped a ball back to Anderson, who didn’t field it cleanly and threw to first base late, but the play was scored an error on Anderson.
Though Anderson gave them the cushion they needed and they did not have to face one of the Padres’ top-tier starters, the Pirates’ offense could not get anything going against San Diego’s bullpen. A small part of it was bad batted-ball luck; Pittsburgh nearly had the first run of the game in the second inning, when Michael Perez hit a sharp grounder that Ha-Seong Kim snared and fired to first to strand Gregory Polanco at third base.
But as the innings went on, the Pirates drew nearer to the back end of the Padres’ relief corps, which has been outstanding to start the season. Pittsburgh’s offense recorded only one hit in the final four innings -- a single by Phillip Evans off former Pirates pitcher Mark Melancon, who was named the National League Reliever of the Month for April.
“When we win games, we have the ability to move and hit and run and do things,” Shelton said. “When you don’t have a lot of baserunners, it’s harder to do that, because we’re not going to sit and bang with anybody. So we have to make sure that we’re trying to create more run-scoring opportunities, and tonight, we just didn’t.”
Anderson became the first Pirates pitcher to pitch at least six no-hit innings and take the loss in a start since Kip Wells, who went 7 2/3 hitless innings in a 2-0 loss to the Brewers on July 1, 2002.
Anderson has been the most consistent starter the Pirates have had this season. He’s gone at least five innings in each of his six starts, and he’s allowed three runs or fewer in each of them.
It’s exactly what the Pirates hoped he’d be able to do when they signed him to a one-year deal on Feb. 17. Anderson never had the eye-popping numbers early in his Major League career. He called Coors Field home for his first four Major League seasons, then he said he pitched more to contact in the confines of Oracle Park last season.
Whatever style he’s using now is working. Anderson owns a 3.24 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP through six starts, both of which would be career bests, and Monday night was just one nearly historic piece in those numbers.
“Six no-hit, then he gave up the one ball off the end of the bat,” Shelton said. “Yeah, he was outstanding.”