I wrote this morning on how Ian Anderson aimed to solidify himself as the Braves’ third ace in his first career playoff appearance, and he did just that against the Reds, helping Atlanta capture their first playoff series win since 2001.
It almost sounds impossible that it has been that long, considering how much success the Braves’ organization has had over the last 20 years, but the postseason has been an entirely different problem, and Anderson — at the age of 22 — helped the Braves get over the hump in style.
The hard-throwing #3 overall pick rarely ran into trouble. The only stressful inning he had was the second when he loaded the bases and threw 30+ pitches. However, like a seven-year veteran, he was able to stay composed and get out of the jam without letting a run cross the plate. After that, it was a breeze. Anderson tossed a shutout over six innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out nine. And if you’re wondering, yes, it was a good enough performance to be considered historic.
Ian Anderson is the youngest pitcher to allow less than 3 hits while striking out 9+ batters through 6+ shutout innings of work, in MLB postseason history. pic.twitter.com/nNyWUUbghf
— Kevin Keneely (@KevinKeneely1) October 1, 2020
Anderson was nothing short of unhittable, and thought it took a while, eventually, the Braves’ offense came to life.
For the first 20+ innings of this series, Ronald Acuña appeared like the only hitter in Atlanta’s lineup that wasn’t pissing down his leg when entering the batter’s box. He gave the Braves the lead in the fifth on a double in the gap that drove in Austin Riley. It was Acuña’s third hit of the day, and for a while, it was all the Braves could muster.
With the score still 1-0, Chris Martin and Will Smith were able to pitch flawless in the seventh and eighth innings before the Braves’ offense finally woke up.
Raisel Iglesias entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, hoping to give the Reds a shot in the ninth down just a run, but Marcell Ozuna, who had not had a hit all series, had other ideas.
With Freddie Freeman on first, Ozuna sent a fastball way into the left-field seats to give the Braves a 3-0 lead, and they weren’t done just yet. Ozzie Albies coaxed a walk later in the inning, and Adam Duvall got in on the party with a homer of his own, stretching Atlanta’s lead to five before Mark Melancon took the mound in the ninth.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 1, 2020
Just like Game 1, Melancon had little trouble with the Reds’ lineup, retiring them in order and giving the Braves their first playoff series win since they swept the Astros in the NLDS back in 2001. It was a work of art from Atlanta’s pitching staff, who didn’t allow Cincinnati to score a single run over the two games of the Wild Card Series. That type of run prevention will be necessary the rest of the way if the Braves plan on winning their first World Series since 1995.