February 2, 2023

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Anderson flirts with perfection as LA bats do damage

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WASHINGTON — When the Dodgers signed Tyler Anderson to a one-year deal in March, the left-hander was expected to be insurance for a pitching staff that had a lot of question marks entering the season.

With Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney on the injured list, the Dodgers have relied on Anderson more heavily than they initially thought. On Monday, the left-hander delivered with his best outing as a Dodger, striking out eight over eight scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 10-1 rout of the last-place Nationals at Nationals Park.

“You have to give credit to Tyler to come into this situation where he was essentially out of the bullpen and buying into what we asked of him if something were to happen,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “And it’s been big because I don’t know where we would be without him.”

Anderson was untouchable through five innings, retiring the first 16 batters he faced before César Hernández broke up his perfect-game bid with a one-out double in the sixth. It was just the second hard-hit ball off Anderson at that point.

Despite not keeping the Nats out of the hit column, the left-hander dominated Washington’s lineup, and did so efficiently. Anderson needed just 60 pitches to get through the first six innings, allowing just two hard-hit balls during that span. He finished his outing with 101 pitches, 77 of them for strikes.

“I was just trying to fill up the strike zone and get ahead,” Anderson said. “Throw strikes and force guys to put the ball in play early.”

Anderson leaned on a fastball and changeup combination that kept Washington off balance. The left-hander threw his changeup 37 times, recording 10 of his 21 swings-and-misses on the pitch. In the eighth, Anderson struck out Hernández and Alcides Escobar with the changeup and Lane Thomas with a four-seamer up in the zone.

It was an emphatic way to end his best outing with Los Angeles.

“He’s been huge for us,” said Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner. “The last two games, he has just been eating innings and we really need that to save the bullpen, and those good quality starts from him have been huge.”

Washington’s only real threat to score off Anderson came in the seventh inning. The Nationals loaded the bases with two outs, but Freddie Freeman got Anderson out of the inning by making a leaping grab and keeping Washington off the board. The ball hit by Maikel Franco had an expected batting average of .420, according to Statcast.

While his defense helped out Anderson, Freeman’s real damage came at the plate, as he led the Dodgers’ offensive outburst. The former MVP went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. It was his sixth game with three or more hits this season. The last Dodger to have six or more three-hit games through the team’s first 41 games of the season was Juan Uribe, who had seven such performances in 2014.

“I was kind of expecting that when we signed him,” Turner said. “He’s been doing it for so long. He might not like to hear that, but he’s probably a Hall of Famer already and he just goes out there and competes every day.”

Freeman, Turner and Mookie Betts have shown why they’re the most dangerous trio in the Majors. It took just three batters for the three of them to help the Dodgers get on the board in the first inning. It’s something they’ve done often during this grueling 31-games-in-30-days stretch, and something the Dodgers have come to expect from their three superstars.

“We just want to do our jobs really well,” Freeman said. “When Mookie sets the tone and gets a hit, I just try and be aggressive to get him over, and Trea drives him in a lot, it seems. It’s just nice to get it going early. We want to score runs fast to help the pitchers settle down.”

The offense helped Anderson settle down and the lefty took it from there. Now the Dodgers are looking to start another lengthy winning streak as they got past Sunday’s painful loss with a nearly perfect performance on Monday.

“Today was an overall good day,” Roberts said.

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