May 22—Anderson v. Anderson sounds more like a legal matter than a pitching duel, and Atlanta Braves righty Ian was brokering a hostile takeover while Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Tyler was filing for bankruptcy.
The Braves smacked seven home runs, including a pair of grand slams, in rolling to a 20-1 win over the Pirates on Friday night before 37,545 at Truist Park.
It was the worst loss by the Pirates (18-26) since a 20-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on April 22, 2010, at PNC Park, which remains the most lopsided defeat in club history. Erik Gonzalez scored the Pirates’ lone run in the top of the ninth, when Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson couldn’t barehand a Will Craig grounder.
Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a grand slam in the second inning. Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley hit back-to-back homers in the fifth. Marcell Ozuna added a solo shot in the sixth. Riley and Swanson went back-to-back in the seventh. It got so bad that pinch hitter Ehire Adrianza hit a grand slam off utility player Wilmer Difo in the eighth.
Acuna leads the NL and is tied for the major league lead with 14 homers, and Albies, Riley, Ozuna and Swanson have seven each. It’s no wonder the Braves (21-24) lead the majors with 72 home runs.
“Take the last inning out of it. We just didn’t execute pitches early in the game,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “With the guys they have at the top of their lineup and the way they swing the bat, that’s why they’re leading the league in homers. They get after it. They’re aggressive. They capitalize on mistakes, and we just made too many mistakes.”
It was the second straight rough start for Tyler Anderson (3-4), who allowed nine runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out seven after giving up four runs in five innings against San Francisco on May 15.
Ian Anderson (4-1) pitched six scoreless innings, finishing with as many strikeouts (six) as hits allowed. Mixing a changeup with a curveball, the 23-year-old didn’t give up an extra-base hit or permit a runner to advance past second base, despite the Pirates getting off to a quick start.
“Yeah, the changeup’s good,” Shelton said. “The changeup’s a four-seam changeup, which you normally don’t see a lot of those. What I mean by that is it spins just like a fastball. It doesn’t have a ton of action to it down. It just stays true. When you’re able to do that and ride it off his fastball, it makes him very difficult.”
After Adam Frazier reached on a leadoff bunt and Kevin Newman followed with a single, Ian Anderson retired the next three to get out of the first-inning jam.
Tyler Anderson had no such luck against the Braves. They took a 1-0 lead after Acuna singled to left, advanced to second on Freddie Freeman’s deep fly to center and to third on Ozuna’s groundout to second before scoring on a double to left by Albies.
The Braves battered Tyler Anderson in the second. After Swanson doubled, Seneca Valley and Pitt alum Kevan Smith — the catcher was acquired Wednesday from Tampa Bay — drew a walk in his Braves debut, and former Pirate Guillermo Heredia singled to load the bases. Acuna then sent a 3-2 changeup to the opposite field for a 5-0 lead.
“I think everybody in the stadium who knows about baseball, and everybody on our team, was kind of like struck that that ball leaves,” Tyler Anderson said. “We get to a count where we throw him everything in, everything in, hard in, hard in, we go one pitch soft, away, down, off the plate, and it’s a well-executed pitch in a good location. Somehow, he’s still on time on that too, after everything else. Hits into that little right field spot there.”
In the fourth, Heredia doubled and scored on Acuna’s sacrifice fly to make it 6-0. The Braves added three more runs in the fifth, when Albies hit a two-run homer that sailed 409 feet to left-center, and Riley followed with a 419-foot shot to left for a 9-0 lead.
Ozuna added a solo homer, his seventh, off Pirates reliever Kyle Keller in the sixth to make it 10-0. Riley and Swanson went back-to-back off Chasen Shreve in the seventh to stretch the lead to 12-0.
The Pirates had resorted to having a position player pitch, and the result was an eight-run eighth inning as the Braves batted around the order with Difo on the mound. The Braves scored on a Riley sacrifice fly and RBI singles by Smith and Heredia before Difo gave up a grand slam to Adrianza to make it 19-0. Freeman and Ozuna hit back-to-back doubles to stretch it to 20-0.
Afterward, Shelton couldn’t help but laugh, perhaps to keep from crying.
“I think Stallings summed it up best: Difo just didn’t have his best stuff,” Shelton said. “They capitalized on it.”
Shelton took no issue with the Braves swinging away at Difo, who was throwing fastballs right over the plate at batting practice speed. The Pirates even sent pitching coach Oscar Marin out for a mound visit to tell Difo to take some velocity off his pitches, which were in the 85-90 mph range.
“They have to swing,” Shelton said. “He’s going to throw it on the plate. You have to respect the game. You have to respect your at-bats. I didn’t expect them to go up there and just take. They shouldn’t do that. No one should do that. Swing the bat. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen three balls hit off the end of the bat off a position player like they did. And they hit some other ones that went pretty far.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .