McCoy: Braves hold off Dodgers to take 2-0 NLCS lead

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson and catcher Travis d'Arnaud celebrate the end of the fourth inning in Game 2 of a baseball National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Credit: Tony Gutierrez

Credit: Tony Gutierrez

Ian Anderson is fast becoming a future baseball trivia question: “Who was that rookie pitcher for the Atlanta Braves that nobody could score runs against during the 2020 postseason?”

The Cincinnati Reds couldn’t. The Miami Marlins couldn’t. And during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series Tuesday night the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t.

The Dodgers scored seven runs Tuesday night in an 8-7 loss to the Braves. . .none against Anderson, but seven against the bullpen.

The scary escape gave the Braves a two games to none lead over the Dodgers in the best-of-seven NLCS.

Before now, another Ian Anderson was famous — the lead singer and mutii\ple-instruments practioner for the rock band Jethro Tull.

The current Ian Anderson is as artistic and talented with his mutli-assortment of pitches that include a fastball, a curve and a change-up that approaches home plate like a Wiffle Ball.

Despite a touch of wildness, five walks, Anderson kept the Dodgers off the scoreboard for his four innings, giving up one hit and striking out five.

For his three postseason appearances the 22-year-old right hander with the disappearing change-up has spliced together 15 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up six hits, eight walks and recording 22 strikeouts.

The only other rookie pitcher to pitch three straight postseason games with four or more shutout innings was the legendary Christy Mathewson in 1905.

The Braves used Anderson’s start to build a 7-0 lead and needed it desperately because the Dodgers unmasked the Atlanta bullpen mystique.

The usually impeccable Atlanta bullpen was staggered in the last three innings as the Dodgers scored seven runs in the last three innings and had the tying run on third base when it ended.

Fan were permitted in Global Life Park, new home of the Texas Rangers, and Anderson said he felt the presence of the 10,500 fans permitted.

“You definitely feel the adrenaline and it was the first time for my family here,” he said. “It was awesome. And the team is feeling good, but we know that’s a great team over there and they aren’t going to waver. We just have to keep the foot to the pedal.”

Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to start for the Dodgers but couldn’t make it due to back spasms. His stand-in, Tony Gonsolin, pitched three perfect innings, but lost an argument with Freddie Freeman, the likely National League Most Valuable Player.

Freeman crushed a two-run home run in the fourth that put the Dodgers on the downward slide.

In the first three innings, Gonsolin was perfect — nine up, nine down with four strikeouts.

The Dodgers, though, put runners on base against Anderson in two of the first three innings, but the score was the same.

Anderson walked leadoff hitter Mookie Betts in the first and he took second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Anderson walked Max Muncy, but third baseman Austin Riley made an incredible stop on Will Smith’s bullet train and threw him out.

Anderson issued another walk to Betts with one out in the second. With two outs, Justin Turner singled for the game’s first hit and Anderson walked Muncy to fill the bases. Smith hit into an inning-concluding grounder to third.

So far this postseason, if a team doesn’t take advantage of anything Anderson offers early in the game they end up with a handful of nothing.

Atlanta’s first baserunner came in the fourth when Gonsolin walked Ronald Acuna Jr. to lead the inning. Freeman then unloaded a 3-and-2 pitch into the right field seats, Atlanta’s first hit but a 2-0 lead. It was the seventh straight postseason game in which the Braves scored first.

And they’ve won all seven.

The Braves gracefully and gratefully accepted four walks in the fifth inning and turned them into four runs.

Gonsolin issued a one-out walk and paid when No. 9 hitter and rookie Cristian Pache doubled to left field for his first major league RBI on his second big league hit and a 3-0 Atlanta lead.

When Gonsolin followed that with a walk he was replaced by Pedro Baez and Freeman said hello with a run-scoring single, his third RBI of the game, and a 4-0 Braves advantage.

The carousel continued when Baez walked Marcell Ozuna to fill the bases and walked Travis d’Arnaud on a full count to force in a run to make it 5-0. Ozzie Albies launched a deep fly to center on a full count, a sacrifce fly to push Atlanta’s margin to 6-0.

The lead swelled to 7-0 in the seventh on a walk, an infield hit and a ground rule double by Dansby Swanson.

The hard-hitting Dodgers are difficult to shut down permanently and they displayed that in the seventh. Relief pitcher Darren O’Day gave up back-to-back hits. He was replaced by A.J. Minter and Corey Seager crash landed one into the Atlanta bullen in left center, a three-run homer to cut the Braves lead to 7-3.

Albies launched a ninth-inning home run, his second in two nights, an important home run because the Dodgers put a deep scare into the Braves in the bottom of the ninth.

A run-scoring double by Seager and a two-run home run by Max Muncy cut the lead to 8-6. That forced manager Brian Snitker to bring in his closer, Mark Melancon.

Will Smith grounded to second. Game over? Nope. Albies booted it for an error and Cody Bellinger tripled to the right field corner to cut it to 8-7 with the tying run on third.

It ended on a hard grounder to third by A.J. Pollock.

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