It's not often that a pitcher's Major League debut lives up to its billing; that a rookie shows up to “The Show” and is as good as advertised. But one could make the case Ian Anderson's performance on Aug. 26 against the New York Yankees and ace hurler Gerrit Cole was one for the history books and maybe a sign of things to come … hopefully.
It may not be fair to put the weight of a potential postseason run on a rookie's shoulders, or his right arm, but the Atlanta Braves' success in the playoffs this year could hinge on how quickly Anderson develops over the next month. There's no other way to describe Anderson's first time out on the hill; he was untouchable.
Anderson carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, surrendered just one run, a solo homer to Luke Voit and notched a victory in impressive fashion. Yes, the Yankees were without their sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge but this was still a formidable lineup. Anderson was unfazed, striking out six in six dominant innings.
Anderson's emergence provides the Braves a glimmer of hope that they might be able to count on someone pitching deep into games other than Max Fried. It's been painful to watch the Braves have to depend on Mike Tomlin and Robbie Erlin for starts when they're better suited coming out of the bullpen to pitch extended innings. When Mike Soroka went down for the year with a torn ACL on Aug. 3, the Braves were left with one pitcher that could and has pitched deep into games; deep meaning longer than five innings.
It's amazing how an organization that was once known for its pitching aces have struggled to develop some of its young arms. Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint and Sean Newcomb have been given every opportunity to provide stability to the Braves rotation but have struggled to find consistency.
The Braves undoubtedly were hurt with Cole Hamels, their prized free agent this past offseason, being sidelined this season with triceps tendinitis. He could return this September and provide a veteran presence in the postseason rotation.
The Braves rotation could be fortified next year with Anderson's emergence, Fried's dominance and the return of Soroka. Those three could evoke memories of when Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine dominated hitters during the Braves' 14-year division championship run.
But that's in the future. This is now. We have to live in the moment, and right now, the moment does not look too big for Anderson.
For one night, he proved his worth and provided Braves' fans a potential look into a very bright future. The Braves just hope that future is now. They'll need it if Atlanta is going to win a third straight National League East Division title and finally advance in the postseason.
—Clint Thompson is a special contributor to The Union-Recorder.