ORACLE PARK — In an Oakland Athletics rotation that lacks a bona fide ace – with Sean Manaea yet to play a game in 2019 – Brett Anderson has been one of the steadiest pitchers in baseball.
On Tuesday night, he recorded his 15th quality start of the year – a mark that ranks seventh in the American League – in a 3-2 defeat to the San Francisco Giants, the first of four Bay Bridge Series games over the next two weeks. In a playoff-like atmosphere at Oracle Park, Anderson — who hasn’t had a full-season ERA below 3.99 since 2015 — nearly out-dueled Madison Bumgarner.
“Their guy was really tough tonight,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
The left-hander pitched six innings of two-run six-hit ball for his seventh quality start in his last eight appearances, and his fourth in eight allowing two or fewer runs in six or more innings.
“I thought he was great again,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “He was mowing them down pretty good.”
Still, Anderson downplayed his performance and thought he could’ve done better.
“My stuff was okay,” he said. “I made some pitches when I had to.”
Over the first five innings, Anderson got the better of Bumgarner, retiring nine straight batters from the second to the fourth and carrying a 1-0 lead into the sixth after a Stephen Piscotty solo home run.
It was only a couple of good Giants at-bats with two outs in the sixth that tarnished an otherwise excellent performance by the left-hander, who ceded two runs to San Francisco on three consecutive doubles.
“I threw a horrible changeup to [Kevin] Pillar,” Anderson said, “and he was able to square it up for that third double and that’s the difference in the game. I’ve just got to be better and get that final out.”
The loss was only the A’s sixth in Anderson’s last 18 starts, and only the second time Oakland had lost in an Anderson quality start. Overall, the A’s are 14-10 in Anderson’s 24 starts, their best record with any regular starting pitcher outside of de facto No. 1 Mike Fiers.
On the year, Anderson has combined with Fiers and Chris Bassitt to form a dependable — albeit unglamorous — starting trio that has been one of the main factors in Oakland being just 2 1/2 games of the second American League wild card.
He is in the midst of his best season since 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, on track to make 30 starts for just the third time in 11-year career. In 2019, Anderson has also posted his third-best ERA (3.95) and second-best WHIP (1.27) in a season in which he has made at least 15 starts.
With Manaea still not quite ready to return to big league action, and top prospect Jesus Luzardo still uncertain to make his debut this season after several injury setbacks, Anderson’s unlikely turn as a front-line starter isn’t just a pleasant surprise; it’s a necessary one.