The Braves had gone the entirety of the shortened 2020 season without a starting pitcher making it through seven innings. Ian Anderson changed that on Saturday in Washington.
MLB Pipeline's No. 38 overall prospect dealt seven scoreless frames to pilot Atlanta to a 2-1 victory over the Nationals in just his fourth Major League start. He allowed one hit and walked three while recording a career-high nine strikeouts to earn his third big league win.
Anderson became only the second pitcher over the last 120 years to allow one hit or fewer in two starts of six-plus innings over his first four appearances in the Majors.
He was thrilled to turn in such a dominant showing, but was even more excited to do so in the midst of the tight NL East race.
“Every game is important at this point of the season and every win is important,” Anderson told MLB.com. “We’re super-excited about tonight’s win. I think it showed a lot about the guys in here. We’re looking forward to what is coming up.”
The right-hander got off to a shaky start as he walked three batters over the first two innings. He escaped both frames unscathed, however, and followed with a spotless third in which he retired the side with ease.
“He had that confident look back again tonight once he got through that second inning,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
The lone blemish -- if you can call it that -- came in the fourth. Asdrúbal Cabrera led things off for the Nationals and caught the Braves off-guard by laying a bunt down the third base line. He made it to first safely, spoiling Anderson’s chance at a no-hitter.
The bunt may have surprised Atlanta's No. 3 prospect, but it didn't rattle him. Not only was Cabrera the last National to get a hit against him, he was the last to reach base at all. Anderson set down the next 12 batters, racking up seven strikeouts to cap easily his best start as a big leaguer.
“I think he did a good job,” Nationals shortstop Trea Turner said. “Early on, we took our walks and he was a little wild. But then he settled in and he wasn’t afraid to throw that changeup in any count, which I think is a big benefit for him and made it tough on us. He just used all three pitches, had some velo, just a good outing by him."
The performance lowered Anderson's ERA to 1.64, the third-lowest clip of any rookie with at least four starts under his belt. Only the Cardinals’ Kwang Hyun Kim (0.83) and the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin (1.57) have better figures.
Having a few quality outings under his belt has proved to Anderson that he belongs in the Majors, and the confidence he's earned as a result suggests the best may be yet to come.
“It’s nice to get up here and have things go well for a few [starts],” he said. “It kind of reassures you and you can take off from there.”
Strikeouts and low run totals are nothing new to Anderson. Over four Minor League seasons, he compiled a 2.91 ERA and 451 punchouts over 377 2/3 innings. Last year, he fanned 147 over 111 frames with Double-A Mississippi while putting up a 2.68 ERA. Following a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, he logged a 6.57 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings.
Nationals No. 2 prospect Luis Garcia went 0-for-3, while top prospect Carter Kieboom entered as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning.
In other action:
Yankees 2, Orioles 1 (10 innings)
Tenth-ranked O's prospect Dean Kremer is nothing if not consistent. After limiting the Yankees to a run while striking out seven and walking three in his Major League debut against New York last week, the right-hander put up the same line in Saturday's rematch. This time, he went five innings and allowed four hits, leaving his ERA at 1.64. No. 5 prospect Ryan Mountcastle went 2-for-3 with a double and Baltimore’s lone RBI. Box score
Phillies 12, Marlins 6
Second-ranked Phils prospect Spencer Howard allowed three runs over 3 2/3 innings, yielding two hits and three walks while striking out five. He left in the fourth inning after reporting some shoulder stiffness, an issue he dealt with last season that forced him to miss two months. He has a 5.92 ERA this season. No. 1 prospect Alec Bohm went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. His two-bagger came in the eighth and plated Didi Gregorius to extend the lead to four. MLB Pipeline’s No. 28 overall prospect is batting .327 on the season. No. 15 prospect JoJo Romero was part of a five-man relief effort and gave up two runs -- one earned -- on three hits in 1 1/3 innings. For Miami, No. 4 prospect Jazz Chisholm walked as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, then struck out in the ninth. Box score
White Sox 14, Tigers 0
No. 40 overall prospect Nick Madrigal singled twice and scored a run for his seventh multi-hit effort in 15 games with the White Sox. No. 18 Bernardo Flores pitched around a pair of hits in a scoreless ninth inning, striking out one, to halve his ERA to 9.00. Sixth-ranked Tigers prospect Isaac Paredes singled in his lone at-bat after replacing Jonathan Schoop. No. 7 Daz Cameron went 0-for-3, while 30th-ranked Rony Garcia surrendered four runs on four hits in the fifth, his lone inning. Box score
Blue Jays 3, Mets 2
Blue Jays No. 6 prospect Alejandro Kirk singled, walked and scored a run in his Major League debut. Promoted from the team's alternate training site before the game, he grounded a single into left field off left-hander Chasen Shreve in the sixth inning for his first big league hit. Box score
Twins 8, Indians 4
No. 12 Twins prospect Brent Rooker went 1-for-1 with a double and came around to score on Marwin Gonzalez's homer in the second inning. He departed in the fourth, however, after being hit by a pitch and was later diagnosed with a fractured right forearm. The former first-round pick is done for the season, finishing with a .316/.381/.579 line through seven games. No. 6 Ryan Jeffers came on as a defensive replacement in the eighth but did not bat. Box score
Mariners 7, D-backs 3
Making his Major League debut, Pavin Smith beat the shift with a single up the middle in the ninth inning off right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano. It was the lone hit in four at-bats for the D-backs' No. 28 prospect. Box score
Royals 7, Pirates 4
In his first Major League start, Royals No. 12 prospect Carlos Hernandez proved that he belongs. The right-hander gave up three hits -- all solo homers -- in three innings, striking out two without issuing a walk. No. 22 Edward Olivares went 1-for-2 with a walk and is batting .351/.359/.595 since he was acquired from the Padres before the Trade Deadline. No. 28 Kelvin Gutierrez went 1-for-2 and walked twice in his 2020 debut. For Pittsburgh, second-ranked prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes went 1-for-4. That lowered his line to .344/.400/.594 through nine games since a promotion from the alternate training site. Box score
Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay’s No. 19 prospect, went 0-for-4. That slows down his rapid start to the season as he was hitting .438 after being recalled from the alternate site just under two weeks ago. He’s batting .308/.400/.769. Box score
Cardinals 7, Reds 1
In his fourth start, Reds No. 23 prospect Tejay Antone gave up two runs on four hits and three walks over three innings. He struck out three and was pegged with the loss. It was just his second time allowing multiple runs over his first nine Major League appearances, and he has a 2.86 ERA. No. 6 Jose Garcia singled to left field as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, boosting his average to .163. Fourth-ranked Tyler Stephenson also came on as a pinch-hitter but grounded out, leaving him 3-for-7 in three big league games. Box score
Astros 7, Dodgers 5
Top Dodgers prospect Gavin Lux went 0-for-4, dropping his slash line to .171/.261/.366 through 11 games this season in his second taste of big league ball. Box score
Rangers 5, Athletics 2 (1st game)
Ninth-ranked A's prospect Jonah Heim singled twice and drove in a run in his second multi-hit effort in six Major League games. No. 7 Daulton Jefferies struggled in his big league debut for Oakland, surrendering five runs on five hits and two walks with a strikeout in two innings. Two of the hits he gave up were homers by Rougned Odor and Ronald Guzmán. Rangers No. 3 prospect Leody Taveras walked in three plate appearances. Box score
Athletics 10, Rangers 1 (2nd game)
Rangers No. 2 prospect Sam Huff picked up his first big league hit, lining a two-out single to left field off right-hander Chris Bassitt in the sixth inning. Tenth-ranked Sherten Apostel contributed a knock in his Major League debut with a leadoff single in the seventh off veteran Yusmeiro Petit. Leody Taveras, Texas' No. 3 prospect, bounced back from a hitless opener by going 2-for-4. Box score
Angels 5, Rockies 2 (11 innings)
Rockies No. 18 prospect Josh Fuentes went 1-for-5, singling in the fourth inning and scoring on a base hit by Ryan McMahon. Top Angels prospect Jo Adell was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and is hitless in his last four starts. Box score
Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter: @byjordanwolf.