Tyler Anderson starts perfect, tosses eight shutout innings as Dodgers rout Nationals

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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Tyler Anderson throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals on Monday in Washington. (Nick Wass / Associated Press)

For a while Monday night, the weather seemingly posed a bigger threat to Tyler Anderson than almost anyone the Washington Nationals sent to the plate.

Through five innings, the veteran left-hander was perfect, using his herky-jerky delivery and changeup-heavy arsenal to mow through a rebuilding Nationals lineup that, aside from slugger Juan Soto, failed to instill much fear.

Something that was concerning: Rain lurked in the forecast throughout the night, threatening to potentially halt the game amid Anderson’s pursuit of history.

“I was kind of hoping it would stay as it was,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Any delay would not have been helpful.”

In the end, the downpour never came. During the Dodgers’ 10-1 win at Nationals Park, however, hits from the home team finally did.

Anderson lost his perfect game bid with one out in the sixth, giving up his first of five hits when César Hernández lined a double to center.

But even without a flawless statistical line, Anderson still produced his best start of the season, stranding each baserunner who reached against him to pitch eight scoreless innings for only the third time in his career.

“Everything was working,” Roberts said. “We were sort of up against it as a pitching staff, and he stepped up again.”

Indeed, coming off a three-game series in Philadelphia that exhausted their bullpen, the Dodgers didn’t need Anderson to make history. They were plenty satisfied with everything else he did.

For the first five innings, the 32-year-old cruised. He struck out five (and finished the night with eight). He didn’t give up one hard-hit ball or walk a batter (his third straight start not issuing a free pass). And he retired the first 15 Nationals on just 50 pitches, getting ahead with his fastball before getting outs with his changeup.

“I just think it’s slow,” Anderson said when asked what made his changeup effective. “I throw some fastballs in there, and I just think the changeup is slow, so it’s a front-to-back game a little bit.”

Hernández finally got to Anderson after working the Nationals’ first three-ball count. Anderson tried to attack with a high heater. Hernández drove it over Cody Bellinger’s head in center.

At that point, Anderson said he wasn’t focused on his perfect game — “That’s pretty early,” he said, adding, “If I was really concerned, you probably don’t throw a fastball in that 3-and-1 count” — or worried about the weather.

Dodgers' Trea Turner doffs his cap to the crowd as he is recognized with a tribute video before a game.
Dodgers' Trea Turner doffs his cap to the crowd as he is recognized with a tribute video before a game against the Washington Nationals on Monday in Washington. (Nick Wass / Associated Press)

Instead, after giving up another single in the next at-bat, he settled back in, inducing a double play to end the sixth before escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, when first baseman Freddie Freeman made a leaping catch for the final out.

“My job out there,” Anderson said, “is just to throw as many innings as I can.”

The Dodgers gave him plenty of support at the plate. Former Nationals star Trea Turner helped lead the way in his homecoming game, going one for four with three RBIs in his first time back at Nationals Park since being dealt to the Dodgers ahead of last season’s trade deadline.

Before the game, Turner and Daniel Hudson, another member of the Nationals’ 2019 World Series team who was making his first return to D.C. since also being traded last year, were greeted with a pregame tribute video.

A half-capacity crowd gave Turner a warm ovation before his first at-bat as well.

“When you look back and think about what you’ve been through and where you come from, it’s definitely special,” said Turner, who had a group of family members in attendance. “I’m not out here crying. I don’t feel emotional about it. But it’s just who I am; just trying to take it moment by moment.”

Freeman and Mookie Betts had two RBIs each, helping the Dodgers score double-digit runs for the fifth time this year.

“When Mookie sets the tone and gets a hit, I just try to be aggressive and get him over, and Trea drives them in,” Freeman said of the Dodgers’ leadoff trio, who all have been heating up at the plate. “It’s just nice to get it going early. We want to score runs fast to help the pitcher settle down.”

That recipe was effective Monday, with Anderson protecting the Dodgers’ big early lead — they scored twice in the first and led 9-0 by the time he took the mound in the bottom of the sixth — with a performance that was dazzling, if not perfect.

“He was just on point today,” Roberts said. “If he can pitch off his changeup like that, he can be as good as anyone.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.