ATLANTA – Ian Anderson was dominant enough to no-hit Houston for five innings.
Even so, the Braves rookie right-hander showed too many flaws to be trusted a third time through the Astros' order.
Despite a troublingly short-handed pitching staff that could use as much length as possible from its starters, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker pulled Anderson with a 1-0 lead after five innings of Friday night's Game 3 of the World Series.
The no-hitter didn't hold, but the Braves' lead did — a 2-0, two-hit victory put them ahead in the Series, two games to one.
Still, Snitker's hook of his red-hot rookie was a head scratcher for some.
Why pull a starter amid a no-hitter? Why put more strain on a bullpen which must carry the load in Games 4 and 5?
A closer look at Anderson's pitching line provides some answers. Of his 76 pitches, only 39 — barely half — were strikes. He issued three walks and hit a batter, stranding two baserunners in the fourth and one in the first.
The right-hander finished strong, retiring the Astros in order in the fifth. When Anderson returned to the dugout, he received handshakes from his teammates and coaches.
Anderson said he briefly pushed back on Snitker's decision, but with Jose Altuve and the top of Houston's order due up the next inning, he understood.
“It was fine," Anderson said. “I have the utmost trust in Snit' and the bullpen, those guys coming in.”
Anderson's biggest pitch count this season was 110 pitches, but like other hurlers, he's at the end of a season in which his work load has skyrocketed. He threw 51 innings between the pandemic-shortenend 2020 regular season and ensuing postseason. Friday's output pushed his 2021 total 145 1/3 innings.
The Braves are expected to rely entirely on their bullpen for the next games. Atlanta entered the Series expecting to have one bullpen game. Then Game 1 starter Charlie Morton broke his right leg in the Braves' 6-2 win.
Morton had been scheduled to start Game 5. Instead it will be another bullpen game as Morton had surgery on the leg and won't return for the World Series.
“Night shift's ready,” reliever Tyler Matzek said.
Left-hander Tucker Davidson was summoned from the Braves' taxi squad at Triple-A Gwinnett to replace Morton on the roster. Davidson could start one of the next two games, but he is an unproven starter, especially on such a big stage, after pitching in only five games in the majors.
By comparison, Anderson made his eighth postseason start riday night. He entered with a 3-0 postseason record and strong 1.47 ERA. The pitcher from upstate New York is also more comfortable than most in cold weather, a skill he showed off with temperatures in the low 50s Friday.
Anderson will certainly be Atlanta's starter if there is a Game 7 in Houston. In such a scenario, his modest pitch count could leave him stronger for the most important game of the Series.
That might end any lingering second-guessing of Snitker's decision, too.
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