SAN DIEGO — The Braves’ primary thumpers did plenty of thumping on Saturday afternoon. That’s clearly an important ingredient in the team’s recipe for success.
Supported by three home runs, Anderson enjoyed a bounce-back start in his second outing of 2022. He limited San Diego to one run on two hits over 5 2/3 innings while collecting seven strikeouts and walking just one batter.
“I was more free,” said Anderson, who allowed five runs and eight baserunners in his first start of the season on Sunday vs. Cincinnati. “I felt like I was in a better rhythm. … My mind was a little more free, and my delivery felt a lot better.”
It was the Braves’ most effective start this season by anyone not named Kyle Wright. More significant than the results, however, was the manner in which Anderson achieved them.
The average velocity on Anderson’s four-seam fastball on Saturday (93.6 mph) remained below his 2020 and ‘21 levels (94.1 and 94.6, respectively). Yet he pounded the strike zone with both the heater and his changeup, which was devastating despite only a 6.1 mph differential between the fastball and change.
Anderson threw 34 changeups. The Padres swung 22 times and whiffed on 11. All seven of Anderson’s strikeouts ended with the Padres whiffing on a changeup.
“That was very, very encouraging to see — the entire outing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He looked like himself. He had good tempo, the ball was coming out of his hand really good. The change was good. That was just so good to see.”
Anderson said he saw the Padres aggressively attack fastballs in the first two games of his four-game set and watched Wright counter that with effective changeups on Friday. That emphasized the importance of getting his own changeup back to par.
“That’s kind of the one pitch — when that’s in the zone, I feel like my delivery is really good,” Anderson said. “The other day against Cincy, I kept bouncing it — not where I wanted it.”
The only tarnish on Anderson’s shiny outing was a solo homer by Jurickson Profar in the second inning. Profar lofted a curveball down the right-field line, and it stayed just fair.
“I felt like I was back to my normal self,” Anderson said. “Staying over the rubber a lot better, giving my arm time to get up and get through. It felt good to pound the zone the way I did.”
Having earned Rookie of the Year votes in each of his first two seasons and delivering a masterful start in Game 3 of the World Series last year (five no-hit innings), Anderson has earned time to find himself. Still, the rough 2022 debut came on the heels of a shortened spring finale due to a blister on his right big toe.
That’s just enough for a bit of doubt to creep in. The results Saturday ended any chance of that doubt growing.
“There’s room for improvement, but I was happy with it,” Anderson said.
The Braves’ offense, meanwhile, showed it can be dangerous, even as it awaits the return of star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. from injury.
Ozzie Albies hit the ninth leadoff home run of his career, giving him a homer in each of the first three games of the series. Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna connected for solo homers off Padres starter Nick Martinez in the fifth inning, with Olson going opposite field to left-center and Ozuna reaching the second deck in left field with a 423-foot drive.
It could have been four homers off Martinez, but Manny Piña was robbed in the second inning when Padres center fielder Trent Grisham perfectly tracked a 404-foot fly ball, leaped and snatched it above the center-field wall.