PITTSBURGH -- Cody Anderson has had the chance to sit back and watch one of the American League's hottest rotations since being promoted to the Indians. It has afforded the rookie a crash course in how to attack hitters at baseball's highest level.
"It's a great pitching staff to be a part of and learn from in my shoes," Anderson said after the Indians' 1-0 loss to the Pirates on Saturday. "You just kind of learn from the older guys and watch the way they're executing their pitches and the way they carry themselves."
In the second tilt within this three-game Interleague set at PNC Park, Pirates lefty Jeff Locke handcuffed Cleveland's lineup, resulting in the first hard-luck loss of Anderson's career. The young right-hander -- called "Big Country" in the clubhouse -- took it all in stride, though that is easy to do after eight stellar innings against one of the National League's top teams.
Indians manager Terry Francona once again marveled at Anderson's poise.
"I was every bit impressed with him today as I was before," Francona said. "He's got the downhill plane, and off of that changeup, that really seems to be giving hitters fits. He mixes in that cutter -- that's probably the pitch he still needs the biggest work on. That's where they took their better swings. But, man, I'm kind of nitpicking. The guy goes eight innings and gives up one."
Anderson's lone setback came in the sixth, when Josh Harrison led off with a double to the wall in center field and then came around to score on a base hit by Neil Walker. On this afternoon, that was enough to sink the Tribe and halt its five-game winning streak. Anderson ended with six hits scattered, no walks issued and four strikeouts in the complete-game loss.
The 24-year-old matched a unique club record in the process.
This marked the third straight start in which Anderson logged at least 7 2/3 innings, allowing no more than one earned run or one walk. That particular streak has only been achieved seven times since at least 1914 by a Cleveland starter. It was most recently accomplished by Corey Kluber during his 2014 Cy Young Award-winning season.
"I went out there and did everything I could to get outs and battled," Anderson said. "I've just gotta take it from there."
Anderson is the first Major League pitcher to log at least 7 2/3 innings in each of his first three career starts since Tim Wakefield did so with the Pirates in 1992. The last American League pitcher to achieve that feat was Bob Milacki for the Orioles in 1988. Anderson is the first Indians pitcher to open a career with the club with three such starts.
With his three Triple-A starts on his professional resume, Anderson now has a 0.76 ERA in 23 2/3 innings in his first three Major League starts.
"He pounded the strike zone," Walker said. "He pounded the strike zone with fastballs, sliders and changeups. We found early on that he wasn't going to nibble in the zone. He was going to make us beat him. Unfortunately, we didn't score more than one run or really get his pitch count up."
While Anderson was stuck with the loss, his outing continued Cleveland's recent string of outstanding starts.
Over the past six games, including the Indians' four-game sweep at Tampa Bay, the rotation has posted a 1.74 ERA with a .135 (21-for-156) opponents' batting average. During that stretch, the starting staff has averaged more than seven innings per outing, while turning in a 6.33 strikeout-to-walk ration in 46 2/3 innings.
Anderson credited his fellow starters -- along with catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez -- for making his transition to the Majors a little easier.
"It's been good. I'm learning a lot," Anderson said. "I can't say enough for the defense and Yan and 'Berto, the way they're catching. They're calling great games, and the pitchers are executing."