A dominant pitching performance by Ian Anderson and the bullpen helped send the Atlanta Braves to a 2-0 win in Game 3 of the World Series. The Braves now have a 2-1 edge in the series with Games 4 and 5 to come at Truist Park over the weekend.
Ian Anderson got the start and wasn’t as sharp as we have seen in the past but he was effective tossing five no-hit innings against statistically, the best offense in the majors. Despite having the no-hitter intact, Brian Snitker made the decision to pull Anderson after the fifth rather than have him face the top of the Astros lineup for a third time.
“One of the things was he was throwing a lot of pitches in the top half of that lineup, getting ready to go back out when he did,” Snitker said of Anderson. “I thought in the fourth inning he really had to work to get through that. He had a really good fifth inning and then I told him because he was like, are you sure? But I was just like, Ian, I’m going with my gut right here. Just my eyes, my gut.”
Snitker made the right call. Anderson was good, but with the team clinging to a one-run lead with the top of the order coming up, it was the correct decision to not allow him to face the order a third time.
“I don’t know. It could have backfired, I guess,” Snitker said. “I just thought at that point in time, in a game of this magnitude and all, that he had done his job. And we had a bullpen that all the guys we use had two days off, and they were only going to pitch an inning apiece, and that made them available for the next two games.”
With the loss of Charlie Morton to injury, the Braves are looking at the possibility of two straight bullpen games. With that as the backdrop, you can see the thinking that you might want to get as many innings as possible from Anderson. However, the most important thing was to get the win and it was a slim 1-0 lead at the time with little margin for error.
“I was all about winning today, and we’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow,” Snitker said. We’re going to have to use a lot of the other guys, and hopefully, we score more runs.”
Snitker wasn’t ready to announce his pitching plans after Game 3 but did confirm that they would use an opener.
“We’re still talking. It’s going to be an opener,” Snitker said. “We’re not sure. Right now we’re still, as things get rushed through, talking about who that’s going to be but we’ll have one here shortly.”
There has been much discussion this postseason about the diminishing role of starting pitchers in the playoffs. There is merit to that conversation but a little bit of it is overblown as well. Bullpen games have become more common this postseason but in a lot of cases it has been more of a necessity for teams than by design. Coming into the season, there was a lot of talk about increased workloads for pitchers coming off of a 60-game regular season. That conversation faded into the background as the season wore on but there is a very real possibility that what we are seeing is a result of that. Teams are going to do what they have to do to win games and if that is deploying a bullpen more often then so be it.
“The me of old, probably a couple years ago, would be how the hell am I doing this, quite honestly,” Snitker said. “But the pitch count was such that he wasn’t going nine innings. So it wasn’t about that. I’ve had that happen to me a few times during the regular season where you let guys go. He wasn’t going to throw a no-hitter himself. It was going to be a combined no-hitter if he did it. He probably only had one more inning in him after we took him out.”
Anderson has now made eight postseason starts in his career and has allowed just 20 hits and five earned runs in 35 2/3 innings. He has 40 strikeouts and has allowed just one home run during that span. Factor in that he is just 23-years old and that is as impressive a start as we have seen in some time.
“He’s been awesome. The kid is so mature,” Snitker said of Anders. The biggest credit to Ian is he never stops trying to make pitches. He never gives in. He stays with his stuff. He stays with the game plan. If it doesn’t work, he goes to the next hitter and starts anew.”
“He’s got a really good quality of limiting damage when he’s not real sharp,” Snitker added. “I don’t know, it’s just we had all our guys gassed up today. I kind of liked how it set up after. We hadn’t scored any runs either. So he’s one mistake away from a really good outing going awry honestly, which against this lineup is really easy to happen. So I just kind of felt that he got us to a really good point in the game.”