ATLANTA — William Contreras ended the toughest stretch of his All-Star season and Ian Anderson calmed his thoughts of going to the minors by simply returning to his recklessness.
Contreras had his third two-home run game of the season as the Braves earned a 6-2 win over the D-backs on Saturday night at Truist Park. But the most encouraging development of the night was built by Anderson, who played a perfect game in the fifth inning and perhaps dampened Atlanta’s urge to add a starting pitcher before the trade deadline. tuesday.
“I think there was more conviction tonight,” Anderson said. “I just went in there with the mentality of [forget] somehow and just attack. It just freed me up a bit. »
Contreras hit a two-run homer in the second and added a solo shot in the fourth to provide more cushion for Anderson, who recorded nine strikeouts and allowed one hit in six scoreless innings. The right-hander has posted a 6.62 ERA in his previous eight starts.
Anderson struck out the first 14 batters he faced before allowing Jake McCarthy’s brace wide to left center field in fifth. He walked the next batter, then retired four straight to wrap up his 97-pitch effort.
“We’re shooting like hell for him, that’s for sure,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It was really good to see him bounce back from the latter like he did. I was proud of him.”
Contreras’ third multi-home run in just 46 starts also ended the frustration he’d felt hitting .185 with two home runs and a .586 OPS in 75 plate appearances dating back to June 19. His ability to be a productive asset will allow the Braves to give more rest to starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who has just .450 OPS in 69 plate appearances since June 29.
“He hit two home runs to the opposite court,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “He followed the ball and let it go deep. He looks like a very good young hitter. It’s the first time I’ve seen him. I was very impressed.
The Braves have produced MLB’s best record (38-14) since the start of June, and they look set to win a second consecutive World Series title. But it wouldn’t hurt to earn an outfielder and maybe a starting pitcher before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Anderson’s recent struggles have reinforced belief that it might be wise to get insurance for him and Spencer Strider, whose stamina is an uncertainty as he nears the conclusion of his second professional season.
Going into Saturday, the idea was that adding a starting pitcher would allow the Braves to send Anderson to Triple-A for a few weeks and then assess where he and Strider stood. But as that six-inning effort wore on, Anderson looked more like the guy who posted a 3.58 ERA in 24 starts in the regular season last year.
“I think I was there just trusting what I did [last year]“, Anderson said. “Then you have a failure and you kind of guess everything. So becoming again [relaxed] going to be great for me in the future.
Anderson’s success has been influenced by his willingness to throw his curveball more frequently than he has over the past month. He threw that pitch 23 times, five times more than he threw it in any of the previous 10 starts since June 2, and 12 times more than he threw it in one of his two previous starts dating back to July 15.
The D-backs felt four of eight swings against the curveball. That pitch had only caused one puff or less in each of his last two starts.
Anderson’s curveball success bolstered the success of his big change and four-seam fastball, which opponents had hit .327 against on Saturday. An out was recorded with each of the three fastballs the D-backs put in play.
“He had all three pitches tonight,” Contreras said through an interpreter. “He had a great game, and I’m happy to see him have that kind of performance.”