Dominant start boosts Wisler's confidence
Braves rookie leaves strong impression heading into '16
ATLANTA -- Matt Wisler walked off the mound for the final time this season one out shy of recording his first career shutout. Courtesy of what transpired over the past few weeks, the Braves rookie was carrying an enhanced sense of confidence that could prove beneficial next year, when he returns as key piece of Atlanta's rotation.
Though Wisler did not complete the gem he manufactured as the Braves completed a season-ending doubleheader sweep of the Cardinals with a 2-0 win Sunday afternoon at Turner Field, he left one last solid impression and gained some motivation that he will carry into the offseason.
"I really wanted that one today," Wisler said. "Hopefully next year I'll get the opportunity again and this time I'll be able to finish it."
Wisler did not allow the Cardinals to advance a runner to past first base until Brandon Moss doubled with one out in the ninth. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez stuck with his young hurler until his pitch count reached 102 with a two-out walk to Tommy Pham. Edwin Jackson then notched his first career save by ending the threat by striking out Randal Grichuk.
As their pitchers produced a 0.56 ERA while they won eight of their final nine home games, the Braves gained some satisfaction at the conclusion of a rebuilding season. But the most encouraging late-season development might have centered around Wisler, who produced a 2.33 ERA in the five starts he made after his struggles led him to be briefly sent to the bullpen in early September.
"From that point on, he was a different guy," Gonzalez said. "He's got 93-94 mph. It's not like he's [finessing] it in there. That was a great last game for him. I think we took him as far as we could take him."
As Wisler limited the Cardinals to four hits over 8 2/3 scoreless innings, he eclipsed the previous career-high mark he had produced when he completed eight strong innings during his June 19 Major League debut against the Mets. After posting a 3.43 ERA through his first seven career starts, the 23-year-old hurler produced a 9.49 ERA over the next seven outings.
Instead of being burdened by his struggles, Wisler displayed some mental fortitude down the stretch and showed why the Braves were so happy to acquire him from the Padres in the Opening Day eve trade that cost them Craig Kimbrel and enabled them to lose the burden of Melvin Upton Jr.'s contract.
"To end on a positive note and to feel good going into next year is going to be nice," Wisler said. "I know I can get guys out at this level going into Spring Training. But I've still got a long way to go."