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Tyler Anderson ensures Dodgers don’t play from behind in latest win

Anderson strong for 6 innings, Freddie Freeman stays hot

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Anderson did not start the season in the Dodgers starting rotation, but he’ll head into the All-Star break leading the team with the best record and best pitching staff in the National League in innings pitched. Another steady performance from the veteran left-hander guided the Dodgers to their smoothest win of the last few weeks.

Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Cardinals was the Dodgers’ ninth win in their last 10 games, so they haven’t been struggling by any means. They’ve just fallen behind early a lot, including eight of the previous nine games. But after trailing 5-0, 3-0, and 6-0 to start the last three games, the Dodgers never trailed in this one, thanks in large part to Anderson.

Anderson allowed only three hits and two walks in six scoreless innings, striking out four. It’s the 10th time in the last 12 starts that Anderson has lasted at least six innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.96 on the season.

Since getting pounded early but being asked to pitch six innings in a “take one for the team” outing against Philadelphia on May 12, Anderson has a 2.36 ERA in 11 starts.

After starting the season in the bullpen, piggybacking Tony Gonsolin with bulk outings his first two times out, Anderson stepped in once Andrew Heaney landed on the injured list, and he’s been a fixture since.

Anderson will head into the break leading the Dodgers with 97⅓ innings pitched*, a remarkable stretch for the veteran who was signed to a one-year, $8.5 million contract in March.

Anderson isn’t flashy, with a four-seam fastball averaging just over 90 mph. But that fastball got seven whiffs and 11 called strikes in only 44 pitches on Thursday. Anderson on the season is among the league’s best in preventing hard contact, not walking batters, and getting opponents to chase. He’s been everything the Dodgers could have hoped, and more.

*Technically, Julio Urías has an outside chance to lead the team in innings, though he’d need 7⅔ innings on Saturday in Anaheim.

Scalding hot

Assuming a baseball player can simply flip the switch whenever they want is a fool’s errand. This game is a constant struggle, even for the creme of the crop. After all, if players could simply choose to be great, why doesn’t anyone ever hit .700 or something outlandish like that over a full season?

But even considering that, the timing of Freddie Freeman going supernova is exquisite. Players found out they were All-Stars before Sunday’s games, with official announcements made public later that afternoon. Tony Gonsolin and Clayton Kershaw got the good news from Dave Roberts in his office. Freeman and Will Smith, a pair of candidates with All-Star credentials, were on the outside looking in.

Since getting the bad news — or, not getting the good news? — Freeman has made three outs while batting in four games. That’s it.

Freeman had two hits and a walk in Thursday’s win in St. Louis, which technically counts as his worst game since the weekend. He double in the fourth inning and scored the Dodgers’ first run. Freeman is the fastest Dodger to 30 doubles in a season, doing so in the club’s 88th game. Johnny Frederick, who holds the franchise seasonal record with 52 doubles in 1929, hit his 30th double in Brooklyn’s 89th game. Jackie Robinson also reached 30 doubles in 89 team games in 1950.

Since Sunday, Freeman has 13 hits in 16 at-bats, with four doubles, two home runs, two walks, and a hit by pitch. Included in there was a stretch of reaching base nine times in a row, snapped by a 102-mph lineout to center field in the sixth inning Thursday.

Sixteen times reaching base ties a Los Angeles Dodgers record over a four-game stretch. Besides Freeman, the other three players to do it were Jim Wynn (1974), Mike Piazza (1997), and Mookie Betts (2021).

Freeman also singled in his final at-bat on Saturday, so he’s reached base 17 times in his last 20 plate appearances, raising his on-base percentage from .374 to .398. Daring that same time, his batting average rose from .294 to .320.

Smith also got left out of the All-Star team, and he’s been hitting ever since, too. His sixth-inning double plated the Dodgers’ second run, and gave Smith six consecutive games with a run batted in.

Gavin Lux added a two-run home run in the seventh to double the Dodgers’ advantage, and has a .657 slugging percentage in 12 July games.

Thursday particulars

Home run: Gavin Lux (4)

WP — Tyler Anderson (10-1): 6 IP, 3 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

LP — Dakota Hudson (6-6): 6⅔ IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Up next

The Dodgers return home, or at least in their home beds, with only a two-game weekend series against the Angels in Anaheim separating Los Angeles from the All-Star break. Up first is Clayton Kershaw on Friday night (7:07 p.m.; SportsNet LA, Bally Sports West), with fellow southpaw Patrick Sandoval starting for the Angels.