Braves ride two Pierzynski HRs past Nats
ATLANTA -- A.J. Pierzynski proved to be too much for right-hander Tanner Roark. Pierzynski hit two solo home runs to back a strong start by Matt Wisler in the Braves' 2-1 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night at Turner Field.
With their fourth win in 17 games against the Nationals this year, the Braves assured themselves of avoiding their first 100-loss season since 1988.
"It was a good game," Pierzynski said. "[Wisler] pitched a great game as well as the whole staff. It was good to see that from Wisler because I know he had struggled against the Nationals. To go out and pitch the way he did, hopefully gives him confidence."
Roark allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings, but home runs by Pierzynski in the fourth and seventh innings gave te right-hander his seventh loss of the season.
Wisler benefited from the Pierzynski homers. He pitched seven-plus innings and allowed one run on five hits. The one run was scored in the sixth inning when Trea Turner hit his first Major League home run.
"It's always nice to hit a home run, no matter if it's your first or your last. It's always fun, especially for me. I don't hit many. I enjoy every second of it," Turner said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Finishing strong: Wisler allowed seven earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings against the Nationals on Sept. 3, and then completed two scoreless innings of relief against them three days later. That short bullpen experience served as a wakeup call for the rookie right-hander, who had produced a 9.49 ERA in his previous seven starts. He has allowed two earned runs or less in three of the four starts that have followed. He allowed consecutive singles to open this latest outing and then retired 15 of the next 17 batters he faced before surrendering Turner's homer.
"I've come a long way, a lot more mentally than physically," Wisler said. "I think I'm making a lot more pitches now. The biggest thing to take away from the past two games is I'm attacking hitters and getting ahead, which makes pitching a lot easier."
Walk this way: Bryce Harper put his name in the record book by drawing a walk for the 124th time, a franchise record. The previous was held by Ken Singleton, who had 123 walks in 1973, as a member of the Expos.
"It was one of my goals to get on base," Harper said. "In Spring Training this year, I wanted to see as many pitches as I could, walk as much as I could. If you are getting on base, you are helping your team win ball games. That's something I want to do the next couple of years of my career."
Power resurgence: Pierzynski's two-out solo shot in the fourth inning was his eighth homer of the season, and first since Aug. 3. The 38-year-old catcher drilled his decisive home run into the left-center-field seats to begin the bottom of the seventh. This was his sixth career multi-homer game and first since he went deep twice for the White Sox during a June 29, 2012 win at Yankee Stadium. More >
Can't do the little things: The Nationals had a chance to at least tie the game in the ninth off reliever Arodys Vizcaino. Washington had runners on first and second with no out. Ian Desmond was at the plate and manager Matt Williams asked him to bunt the runners over. But the ball bounced in front of the plate, Desmond didn't run because he thought he would be called for interference. Instead, Desmond hit into a double play. Matt den Dekker then struck out to end the game.
"We had a chance to get guys over at second and third," Williams said "Grounder, fly ball or whatever ties it. We didn't execute it."
"I thought they were going to ignore me, but they were pretty happy. It was a big home run to tie the game. I was glad they didn't just big league me or go inside or anything like that." -- Turner, on his teammates' reaction after his first Major League home run
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Opponents have gone 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position against Wisler over his past four starts. During his ugly seven-start stretch from Aug. 1-Sept. 3, opponents went 10-for-27 against him with runners in scoring position.
Braves third baseman Hector Olivera exited with a left elbow contusion that he suffered when he was hit with a pitch in the fifth inning. Roark's fastball hit the edge of Olivera's pad and a portion of the elbow.
Nationals: Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who is a free agent, could pitch his last game as a member of the Nationals on Wednesday against the Braves at 7:10 p.m. ET. Last Friday night could have been the last time Zimmermann throws a pitch in a Nationals uniform at Nationals Park. The ending was not pretty, an 8-2 loss to the Phillies, as Zimmermann pitched five innings and allowed six runs.
Braves: Atlanta will counter with Williams Perez, who will be making the final start of his rookie season. Perez has displayed better command as he has produced a 2.92 ERA over his past four starts.
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