Marlins manager Don Mattingly on 3B prospect Brian Anderson
Brian Anderson did everything he needed to do in his first at-bat of the Miami Marlins’ 12-10 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday. The slugging third baseman sat back and waited on Kyle McGowin to deliver him the pitch he wanted. The pitcher opened with a ball, then a called strike and two other pitches outside the zone.
The rookie’s fifth pitch was the sort of mistake Anderson was waiting for — one he was struggling to get to in the first month of the season. McGowin dropped a sinker in the middle of the zone, a bit inside on the righty, and Anderson punished him. The 26-year-old twisted and whipped the pitch 409 feet into the left-field stands at Nationals Park to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
“I’m getting back to feeling more comfortable up there,” Anderson said Friday. “I don’t really think I’ve had a stretch so far this season where I’ve really felt that good at the plate, so I’m seeing the ball well. I’m swinging at good pitches.”
The early two-run home run for Miami (16-32) continued the best stretch of hitting for Anderson in his mostly disappointing sophomore season. After finishing fourth in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2018, Anderson started the season 6 for 42 before he started to get on track in the middle of April.
The last week — and particularly the last four games entering a 4:05 p.m. game Saturday in Washington — have marked a decided turning point for Anderson. Three of his five homers have come since Tuesday and six of his 13 extra-base hits have come since May 17. Anderson is getting back to what made him great as a rookie.
“I think in general he’s trying to stay a little straighter — he was diving a little bit too much — and just using more of the whole field,” manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday. “He was really forcing the ball into right field. You’ve got to stay on the ball and use the middle of the field, but he was kind of getting a little too far to right and not staying in the middle, which allows him to pull the ball easier.
“For him in general, it’s just staying a little straighter with his direction. Pretty simple stuff, really. It’s just a matter of he had some bad habits.”
Anderson ensured his ninth multi-hit game of the season in the eighth inning against the Nationals (20-31) to help spark another rally. Relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough threw Anderson another inside pitch and he was able to get around on it again, slicing a single out to left field.
Anderson never projected as a pull hitter, but he’s always at his best when he’s able to use the whole field. In the first month of the season, he gradually drifted from trying to hit the ball back up the middle to trying to hit it to right field. Anderson spent the past few weeks focused on straightening out, so he could hit the opposite way when he needed to or pull the ball when a pitcher made a mistake on an inside pitch.
Throughout the Marlins’ six-game winning streak, it manifested into success for Anderson.Now good habits will have to win out.
“More than anything just trying not to force the ball the other way. If the pitch is out there, I’ll go with it, but I’m just looking for stuff out over the middle, I’m trying to drive it through the middle of the field and if it’s inside you pull it,” Anderson said. “I’ve been doing a lot better job of pulling the ball with a little bit more authority.”