Ian Anderson needed a rebound after a horrendous performance in his most recent outing. He got all that and more as the Braves cruised to a 6-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night in Atlanta.
With a newly-trimmed beard, half a tick more velocity on his four-seamer, and less of the pitch-to-pitch inconsistency that’s plagued him this season, Anderson dominated the Diamondbacks for much of his six-inning stint. He didn’t allow a baserunner until two outs in the fifth, and finished his day with a 9/1 K/BB ratio that included just the one hit, a Jake McCarthy hustle double on a liner to left. After that double, McCarthy stole third and Anderson issued a four-pitch walk to Bobby Kennedy, but the right-hander recovered to strike out Gerald Perdomo. He followed that up with a perfect sixth to end his night.
Overall, Anderson got a ton of whiffs against a team that doesn’t really swing and miss that often. All three of his pitches had whiff rates of 28 percent or higher, and 35 percent of the 97 pitches he threw went for either a called strike or a swinging strike. Right before McCarthy’s double, he did allow a barreled liner, but it was caught in the outfield.
As for Anderson’s mound opponent, Corbin Martin, well... things did not go anywhere near as well for him. In the first, Matt Olson hit a solo homer out to center. It would’ve been a two-run homer, as Ronald Acuña Jr. reached on an infield bouncer to begin the frame, but a caught stealing erased that run. In the second, Eddie Rosario drew a five-pitch walk, and William Contreras joined in on the bombing run by crushing a two-run homer to right-center-ish. Contreras then got to Martin again in the fourth, this time with a solo homer to right. Through four innings, Martin allowed five barrels — he was fortunate that two found the gloves of his teammates.
Caleb Smith worked a scoreless fifth in relief of Martin, but the Braves touched him for a couple more in the sixth, as a four-pitch leadoff walk to Marcell Ozuna turned into run number five courtesy of Rosario’s triple to right. Rosario later scored on an Orlando Arcia bloop into center. Noe Ramirez and Tyler Holton pitched scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth.
After Anderson departed, Jesse Chavez and Tyler Matzek threw scoreless frames of their own. An Austin Riley error at third put the first batter Matzek faced on base, but a really slick play by Dansby Swanson on a bouncer in the hole led to a forceout at second, and Matzek retired the next two hitters. The only Braves pitcher to not fare particularly well on the night was A.J. Minter, who came in to close out the 6-0 lead, but allowed two runs in the process. The runs scored on a double (out of the reach of a diving Riley) and two singles; Minter also allowed a barreled fly to Christian Walker that was caught at the warning track in left. Buddy Kennedy grounded out to Arcia at second to end the game.
Anyway, this one was all about Anderson dominating, and William Contreras putting up his third two-homer game of the season. Six of Contreras’ 13 homers so far in 2022 have come in multi-homer games, and his wRC+ is up to 147. This was the best start of Ian Anderson’s career, and a pretty cool testament to how bizarre baseball is: Anderson’s been struggling and this patient Diamondbacks team should’ve been a challenge for him, but he somehow busted out an amazing performance anyway.
The Braves go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon as Merrill Kelly faces Max Fried. They did not pick up ground in the divisional race today, as the Mets once again dumped the Marlins.