Anderson homers twice to top Astros
Braves center fielder haunts former team with big night
HOUSTON -- Josh Anderson's greatest asset is undoubtedly his speed. But the Braves center fielder is quickly proving that he's added a little power to his offensive arsenal.
After Anderson hit .358 as a September roster addition last year, the Astros were so impressed that they traded him to the Braves with the confidence that Michael Bourn would prove to be a better option in center field.
The ever-humble and soft-spoken Anderson has never publicly voiced displeasure. But with a surprise, two-homer performance that helped the Braves claim an 11-5 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night, he allowed his bat to do the talking in a language that was previously rare to him.
"I wanted to go out and make an impression and show them what I'm capable of doing," Anderson said. "Obviously it's fun to prove somebody wrong."
There's certainly no reason to suddenly anoint Anderson a power hitter. He's hit 19 homers in 723 professional games, and four of those came while he spent most of this season at Triple-A Richmond. But after working with Richmond hitting coach Chris Chambliss and Minor League roving instructor Leon Roberts this summer, the slender speedster gained the confidence that he can at least occasionally drive the ball.
Anderson began this convincing victory with his second career leadoff homer, and then added to his team's early lead with a two-run homer off Brandon Backe in the second inning. Within a span of two at-bats in two innings, he tripled his career homer total and gave the Braves the spark they needed to claim their fifth win in the past eight games.
"It had to feel good for him to hit two homers against the team that traded him," said Jeff Francoeur, who doubled in both of the first two innings to propel him to a three-hit performance that increased his batting average to .240 for the first time since June 28.
While providing themselves the possibility of avoiding their first 90-loss season since 1990, the Braves benefitted from a number of oddities. Anderson's first career two-homer performance was surprising, and Francoeur's bases-clearing, three-run double in the six-run second inning was certainly a welcome sight.
It was Francoeur's second consecutive hit with the bases loaded. Before this mini-streak, he had recorded just four hits in 31 at-bats with the bases loaded.
"Frenchy is getting it back together," Braves manager Bobby Cox said in reference to Francoeur, who has hit .298 this month and provided himself reason to enter the offseason with a sense of confidence that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago.
While tallying 10 hits before the Astros recorded the second out of the second inning, the Braves propelled themselves to an early 9-0 lead. But despite gaining this comfortable advantage, starter James Parr was unable to secure his second career victory. After surrendering just two runs through the first 3 2/3 innings, the 22-year-old right-hander endured a stretch during which he allowed four doubles in a span of five batters.
Parr's evening and season came to a close after the Astros closed the gap to 9-5 with Geoff Blum's fifth-inning RBI single. From there, Vladimir Nunez, Manny Acosta, Jorge Julio and Mike Gonzalez limited the Astros to just one hit.
"You've got to go five innings right there," said Parr, who saw the Braves win each of the five starts he made this month. "I felt like [Cox] could have left me in there for one more hitter or one more out. But it's his decision. He's a Hall of Fame manager. We got the win and that's the most important thing."
Considering the outing, Cox was actually somewhat complimentary of Parr. But most of his praise was directed toward Martin Prado, who singled in both of the first two innings, Acosta, who recorded three strikeouts in a scoreless seventh inning, and Anderson, who added a fifth-inning single to give him three-hit performances in both of the first two games of the series against his former employer.
"We know he's not a home-run hitter," Cox said of Anderson. "But he can run and he puts the bat on the ball."
On his way to being named the International League's postseason All-Star team this year, Anderson hit .314 and was successful with 42 of his 49 stolen base attempts.
Although six of the 22 homers he's collected during his professional career have come during the past two months, Anderson still understands that power isn't his strength. But as he showed the Astros, he's now at least capable of occasionally providing damage with some unsuspecting power.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.