Braves must deal with rotation's growing pains
PHILADELPHIA -- Some of the patience the Braves will need to maintain the remainder of the season will be necessitated by carrying three rookies in their starting rotation. Thus they will be subject to endure some of the growing pains Matt Wisler felt while experiencing the toughest start of his young career during Saturday night's 12-2 loss to the Phillies.
"This is a part of the growing pains," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "This is exactly what you're going to get. You're going to have two or three good outings by a young pitcher and then have a bad one. I know with [Wisler] the learning curve is short. He'll go back out in four or five days and get it back on track."
On the way to losing for the ninth time in their past 10 games, the Braves saw Wisler surrender a career-high seven earned runs and eight hits in just 4 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander's most costly mistake came when he hung a slider that eight-hole hitter Cameron Rupp drilled over the center-field wall for a three-run homer with two outs in the fourth inning.
Wisler acknowledged the significance of making this mistake at a point where Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola was on deck. Had he taken a more careful approach to Rupp, the game might have evolved in a much different manner. But this go-ahead three-run shot simply fueled the momentum the Phillies extended when they recorded three hits, including a Odubel Herrera solo homer, against Atlanta's young starter in the fifth.
"He's got great makeup and a great competitive approach," Gonzalez said. "He'll rattle off five or six good starts. That's just part of being a young pitcher. There is no place you can put [young pitchers]. There's not a simulator. You've got to allow them to experience these games and let them learn from it."
Wisler had allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his previous seven career starts and he had completed seven strong innings against the Cardinals in his last outing. Now, he will have to bounce back from this outing much like he did after allowing six runs in just four innings at Nationals Park on June 25. Six days later, he held the Nationals scoreless over 5 1/3 innings.
"I've just got to learn from this," Wisler said. "Whatever I was struggling with, I've got to fix it in the bullpen and then come out ready for my next start."
With their current rotation consisting of three pitchers -- Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez -- who had never made a Major League start before this season, the Braves are likely destined for some more nights like this. But they hope the sometimes painful maturation process will prove beneficial to the club's future.
"I went through growing pains when I was a rookie," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "They're going to go through growing pains and we're going to be waiting for them on the other side. This is what the team is all about. We're going to go through our rough stretches and we're in the midst of one right now. They're going to have a couple of rough starts, but hopefully they can get right back on the horse and see if we can start winning some ballgames in the last few months."