Tyler Anderson threw 86 pitches Sunday, not one of them traveling faster than 92 mph, the Dodgers left-hander content to cruise in the slow lane while so many of his peers zoom down the autobahn at 97-98 mph.
But what Anderson lacks in velocity he makes up for in command, deception and guile, a combination that earned the 32-year-old with the herky-jerky delivery a playoff rotation spot. It was on display again in his final regular-season start.
The Dodgers lost to Colorado 4-1 before 44,091 at Chavez Ravine, their normally potent offense mustering three singles off Rockies starter Germán Márquez (9-13) and relievers Justin Lawrence and Daniel Bard, the latter striking out six of his last seven batters for the save.
Anderson (15-5) took the loss but pitched well enough to win, giving up two runs and six hits in five innings, matching a career high with 10 strikeouts and walking none.
One of the knocks on Anderson is that he doesn’t have swing-and-miss stuff, his three-pitch mix consisting of a four-seam fastball that averages 90.7 mph, a 79.0-mph changeup and an 85.7-mph cut fastball.
But Anderson induced 21 swinging strikes and 10 called strikes among his 86 pitches against the Rockies. That should play in the postseason.
“I think one slant as far as pitching in the playoffs is people kind of look toward strikeouts and stuff, but I just don't think that stuff is created equal,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “The radar gun is easy to quantify, but command, being able to sequence [pitches] is important.
“He's got a [superb] changeup, and most importantly, he's a guy that I trust. The postseason is about putting guys in a position to succeed, but also going with guys that you believe in and trust.”
That’s high praise for a seven-year veteran who opened the season as a bulk reliever before seizing a rotation spot in late April when Andrew Heaney went down because of a shoulder injury.
Anderson, who signed a one-year, $8-million deal in March, finished the regular season 15-5 with a 2.57 earned-run average, the fifth-best ERA in the National League and more than two full runs better than the 4.62 career ERA with which he entered the season. He struck out 138 and walked 34 in 178⅔ innings.
Along the way, Anderson made his first All-Star team, took a no-hitter into the ninth inning of a start June 15 against the Angels, and went 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA with 24 strikeouts and six walks in five starts in July.
“The regular season was good, but I didn't come here [just] to have a good regular season,” Anderson said. “I came to have a chance to be in the postseason. It’s encouraging that they trust me to go out there and compete with these guys [in the playoffs]. Once that starts, hopefully the best starts are ahead of me.”
Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw are lined up to start the first two games of the NL Division Series on Oct. 11-12. Anderson will start Game 3 or 4, giving him almost two weeks between starts.
“He's gonna be a big piece of it,” Roberts said of Anderson’s role in the World Series pursuit. “Every outing, every inning, every pitch is important, but he's gonna take down a lot of innings for us to be good and to win a championship. Knowing he's going to start a game in the first series beyond … he’s obviously earned that.
Anderson grooved an 0-and-2 cutter to Brendan Rodgers, who lined the mistake over the center-field wall for a solo homer in the first inning Sunday, and Ryan McMahon doubled in a run in the third, but he was sharp otherwise, striking out seven batters with his fastball and three with his changeup.
“Obviously, you don't want to go out with a loss, but I felt like for the most part I made pretty good pitches,” Anderson said. “I feel like I'm in a good spot with everything, so I'll take that overall.”
The Dodgers scored in the third inning when Gavin Lux walked, took third on Trayce Thompson’s soft single to right and came home on Cody Bellinger’s sacrifice fly to deep center. They trailed 2-1 when they put two on with no outs in the eighth on an infield single and an error, but Bard struck out Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith on 98-mph fastballs. … The Rockies scored twice off reliever Andre Jackson in the ninth, an inning that began with right fielder Joey Gallo losing Randal Grichuk’s fly ball in the sun on a triple. … Justin Turner returned as the designated hitter after missing four games because of a left leg bruise, but left fielder Chris Taylor, scratched from Saturday’s lineup because of neck tightness, did not play and is considered day to day. “It’s not great,” Roberts said of Taylor. “For Chris to say he can’t play is certainly telling.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.