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'It could have backfired': Atlanta's Brian Snitker knew pulling Ian Anderson was risky with no-hitter intact

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ATLANTA — ”You sure?’’

Atlanta starter Ian Anderson didn’t protest the decision Friday night. He just wanted to make sure his manager was making the right call, here.

Here he was, a 23-year-old throwing a no-hitter in the World Series, with visions of Don Larsen dancing in his head, and is manager was taking him out of the biggest game of his life.

He had pitched only five innings. Thrown only 76 pitches. He was on such an adrenaline rush, and being only 23, felt like he could go all night-long.

Sorry, Snitker, 66, who’s old enough to be Anderson’s grandfather, wasn’t going to change his mind.

“He wasn’t going to pitch a nine-inning no-hitter," Snitker said.

Fortunately for Snitker, it was a decision he wouldn't live to regret with Atlanta going on to win 2-0 in Game 2 of the World Series on Friday.

“The me of old, probably a couple years ago,’’ Snitker said, “would be how the hell am I doing this? But the pitch count was such that he wasn't going nine innings. So it wasn't about that.

“I've had that happen to me a few times during the regular season where you let guys go. He wasn't going to throw a no-hitter himself. It was going to be a combined no-hitter if he did it.’’

GAME 3: Atlanta's weird win was a modern masterpiece

Instead, Atlanta settled for the two-hit shutout.

“I don't know, it could have backfired, I guess,’’ Snitker says. “I just thought at that point in time, in a game of this magnitude and all, that he had done his job.

“And we had a bullpen that all the guys we used had two days off. They were only going to pitch an inning apiece. And that made them available for the next two games after if it went south.’’

Ian Anderson and Travis d'Arnaud talk on the mount in the third inning of Game 3.
Ian Anderson and Travis d'Arnaud talk on the mount in the third inning of Game 3.

Well, with Atlanta being down a starter because of Charlie Morton’s broken leg in Game 1, their bullpen is going to have to take on an even bigger role.

“My pitching staff,’’ says Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud, “is full of studs.’’

Atlanta’s bullpen won’t have any scheduled rest until Monday, either traveling to Houston for Game 6, or celebrating their first World Series championship in 26 years.

Still, despite the potential fatigue, Atlanta could be sitting pretty, knowing that after Game 5, they’ll have ace Max Fried on the mound for Game 6 and back to Anderson in Game 7.

“A young kid like that going out there and doing what he's doing,’’ third baseman Austin Riley, who's only 24, says of Anderson, “he's turned into an absolute animal. A beast in the playoffs. I don't think we get to the spot without him, and he's been just unbelievable.’’

Anderson is 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his postseason career and still has not permitted more than two runs in his eight career starts.

“He’s like a 65-year-old in a 23-year-old person’s body,” said Atlanta reliever Luke Jackson, who pitched a perfect seventh inning. “It seems like he’s seen everything when he hasn’t seen anything. He’s just an old soul.’’

Well, maybe that’s why he understood Snitker’s reasoning.

“Obviously, you want the chance to compete, especially on the biggest stage like this is,’’ Anderson says. “I knew he wasn't going to budge. It's hard to. You've got guys like Matzek and Minter and Luke and Will [Smith] coming in, you can't blame him for going to those guys. Those guys, time in and time out, get it done. …

“When you have a chance to get to those guys at the back end, you can't hesitate.’’

It was the first time Atlanta won a World Series home game since that one-hitter in 1995, and they still are undefeated at Truist Park this postseason, going 7-0.

“I think the way our offense is, they're not going to stay down for too long,’’ Anderson said. "I think we're in a good spot going into Games 4 and 5.’’

Yet, with two bullpen games lined up, and unable to announce who’ll even start when they left the ballpark late Friday, it’s almost impossible to imagine this series will end in Atlanta.

“Yeah, I think you see two damn good teams playing good baseball,’’ said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. “Both teams are really good. That's what it's all about. That's why you play the game. Play in the World Series. Two of the best teams in the game going at it.’’

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Atlanta's risky World Series move pays off: 'It could have backfired'