CHICAGO — Brett Anderson already owns two quality starts this season, and the Chicago Cubs left-hander has allowed just one earned run for a glittering 0.84 ERA.
Manager Joe Maddon thinks even better days are ahead for his new starter.
“From spring training to now, his stuff keeps getting better,” Maddon said on Monday prior to the opener of the Cubs’ three-game series with the Brewers, a 6-3 Milwaukee win. “I don’t think he’s really put it together here yet for us. You haven’t see him with all cylinders clicking. I like the fact that he’s been competing with less than his best stuff to this point.”
Anderson (1-0) makes his third start of the season Tuesday night against Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson (1-0, 1.38 ERA) in the series’ middle game.
A nine-year veteran who signed a free agent deal with the Cubs in the offseason, Anderson previously pitched for the Oakland A’s and the Colorado Rockies, and he most recently spent two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is 39-43 with a 3.81 ERA over 117 big league starts.
Anderson missed most of last season due to a back injury and subsequent surgery, making only four starts.
He faced the Brewers in his 2017 debut on April 7, tossing 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball during a no-decision. Last Thursday against the Dodgers, he threw five scoreless innings in a 4-0 Cubs win.
The Tuesday start will be his third all-time against Milwaukee. He has a 2.82 ERA in two no-decisions.
“When you see like an overabundance of ground-ball outs and he’s probably pitching easily into the sixth inning, you know that he’s pretty much on that day,” Maddon said. “And I really anticipate seeing that more often.”
As for Anderson’s mound opponent Tuesday, Brewers manager Craig Counsell believes there is one big difference for Nelson this year.
“The big thing in both of his starts is you can go right to the walk column,” Counsell said Monday. “He’s got two walks to start the season. That was a little bit of an Achilles’ heel for him last year, and it’s a sign that he has not beat himself at all and made guys earn it.
“That’s where it starts for me with Jimmy.”
Nelson made his first start on April 7 vs. the Cubs and had no decision in the Brewers’ 2-1, 11-inning victory.
Last Thursday, he allowed one run on seven hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s 5-1 win over the Reds.
Nelson is 1-6 all-time against the Cubs with a 3.49 ERA in 13 career games, including 11 starts. He is 1-3 with a 4.35 ERA in six games (five starts) at Wrigley Field.
Following summer-like weather last weekend, colder conditions settled back into Wrigley Field on Monday. There was a game-time temperature of 45 degrees and a wind blowing in from the north that made it feel like 37.
“I like when it plays bigger (with colder weather) as opposed to smaller,” Maddon said.
Maddon will continue to get his wish as colder conditions are expected to persist through the series’ final two games, though the weather didn’t cool the Brewers’ bats on Monday. Eric Thames, Jett Bandy and Ryan Braun homered as Milwaukee broke a tie with the New York Mets to take the major league lead in home runs with 25.