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Braves 2, Nats 1: Pierzynski’s homers the difference

Sep 29, 2015, 9:40 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After the chaos that accompanied their final homestand of the season, the Nationals opened their final road trip Tuesday night, hoping matters would calm down and focus would return to baseball. It did, but that didn’t necessarily translate into winning baseball.

A.J. Pierzynski’s two home runs off Tanner Roark proved the difference for the Braves, who didn’t get much offense from anybody else but didn’t really need it. Right-hander Matt Wisler made sure of that, tossing seven innings of 1-run ball, allowing only Trea Turner’s solo homer in the sixth (the rookie infielder’s first of his young career).

The Nationals didn’t give themselves many opportunities. And those they had, they squandered, most notably a 2-on, 1-out potential rally in the eighth. Bryce Harper stood at the plate with a chance to change the outcome of the game, but the presumptive NL MVP was induced into a 5-4-3 double play by former teammate Edwin Jackson, much to the delight of the sparse gathering at Turner Field that was announced as 15,272 but included fewer than half that many fans actually in attendance.

They had one final shot in the ninth, with two on and nobody out. But Ian Desmond bunted right in front of the plate, getting Jayson Werth thrown out at third, then didn’t hustle out of the box and was doubled up in unsightly fashion.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Turner’s offensive game is built primarily around contact and speed, but the kid does have some pop in hit bat. (He hit eight homers in 500 minor-league plate appearances this season.) And he showed it in the top of the sixth, pouncing on Matt Wisler’s first-pitch fastball and lofting it over the left-field wall at the appropriately named Turner Field. Teammates mobbed Turner in the dugout, while the Braves’ Nick Swisher tossed the ball back in for safe keeping. After a sluggish start at the plate, Turner has begun to show the Nats everything he can do. This actually is true to form. He struggled briefly at each level of the minors this year before getting hot. Sure enough, after going 1-for-11 to begin his major-league career, Turner now has six hits in his last 13 at-bats.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Though he departed in line to take the loss, Roark pitched quite well. Certainly better than he has in some time. Perhaps getting used to starting every fifth day again, he looked stronger and was efficient enough to go more than five innings for the first time since rejoining the rotation at the start of the month. Roark really only made two mistakes all night. Unfortunately both came with Pierzynski at the plate, and both wound up over the fence. That makes 17 homers allowed by Roark this season in 105 innings. He only gave up 16 homers in 198 2/3 innings last year.

KEY STAT: Bryce Harper set a new Expos/Nationals franchise record with his 124th walk of the season, breaking the previous mark established by Ken Singleton in 1973.

UP NEXT: Jordan Zimmermann (13-9, 3.68) makes what will likely be the final start of his Nationals career Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. Right-hander Williams Perez (6-6, 5.04) pitches for Atlanta.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 29, 2015 at 9:42 PM

    Meaningless game, meaningless offense.

  2. Danny - Sep 29, 2015 at 9:43 PM

    Bye one dimension Desmond, hello Trea!

  3. hersheyman - Sep 29, 2015 at 10:01 PM

    We know that Desmond has significant limitations. What’s worse is that MW chooses to ignore them. Hit and Run??? Swing away? Anything but bunting with your 5th place hitter. What’s amazing is that MW did the same thing on Saturday eve and couldn’t bunt then in a crucial situation.

    Also, take Werth and Robinson out and put in Taylor and maybe even a pitcher to pinch run.

  4. corkybb - Sep 29, 2015 at 10:06 PM

    Matt Williams: “Desi, can you bunt?”
    Ian Desmond: “No, skip; I really suck at it. I’ve never been able to do it.”
    Williams: “Okiedoke. Go ahead and bunt.”
    *Desmond bunts into double play*

  5. hersheyman - Sep 29, 2015 at 10:12 PM

    Just because Harper grounds into a DP the inning before, doesn’t mean that you switch tactics and bunt with your 5th-place hitter the next inning. In fact, its just the opposite, it’s even more of a reason to hit away – its like playing poker, if it fails the first time, the odds get better that it will work the second time.

    Terrible manager, no strategy, no smarts.

    • sunshinebobby - Sep 29, 2015 at 10:38 PM

      @hersheyman sez, “Terrible manager, no strategy, no smarts.”

      Don’t worry, Mr. H. Only five games left in Matty’s Reign of Error.

      If I’m Matty Boy, I don’t answer the phone on Monday.

    • sec112 - Sep 30, 2015 at 1:43 AM

      Don’t disagree that the bunt was probably not the right choice there, but what you described is not how odds work.

  6. janebeard - Sep 29, 2015 at 10:25 PM

    Ken Singleton. There’s a blast from the past.

    • naterialguy - Sep 30, 2015 at 12:07 AM

      I know, right?
      That made my ears perk up.

  7. philipd763 - Sep 29, 2015 at 10:57 PM

    Maybe Desmond can spend the winter learning to bunt. That used to be taught in Little League; I am appalled at the number of major leaguers who are clueless when it comes to bunting.

    • sec112 - Sep 30, 2015 at 1:50 AM

      Desmond has 20 bunts for a base hit in his career, and a 65% success rate on sacrifice bunts. He’s not incompetent at bunting. He just did a lousy job at it this time (and on his previous attempt, to be fair).

  8. edbrinkman - Sep 30, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    The Nats are terrible in scoring runs when they have RISP with no outs. No outs! Happened twice last night. I was at the game last Thursday when Clint Robinson doubled to lead off. Desmond tries to bunt him over but the bunt was so bad that Clint was tagged out at third. Now we have a runner on first with one out instead of third. Last night’s double play was the worst. Definition of insanity – doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Let him swing away.

  9. natsfan1a - Sep 30, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    Well, good on Roark, and Turner, and Bryce. Stayed awake for the game, sort of. I may have nodded off a time or two in the late innings. In my defense, there wasn’t a whole lot happening.

    As I was watching the early innings, it occurred to me that I once thought AJ was one of the biggest jerks in baseball. Then we got our new closer. Actually, I always thought our new closer was a jerk as well. I’ve since upgraded him to, um, a posterior cavity. Hope that he’s our old closer before long, but I digress.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 30, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      Well, now that I’ve gone and mentioned our closer situation, I might as well further sully this thread in that regard.

      Here’s something that occurred to me the other day. Rob Dibble was fired from his MASN gig with one year and one month remaining on his contract. The offense was saying, on his XM broadcast gig rather than on MASN, that Strasburg needed to “suck it up” after exiting a game with an apparent injury (an injury that we later learned would lead to season-ending surgery). I’ve read that, although tv broadcasters work for MASN, the teams make the hiring and firing decisions. So, let’s see. Dibble questions the toughness of a player and is fired. Papelbon tries to strangle a player and gets a four-day suspension. Regardless of what one’s personal opinion might be of any of the parties involved, and regardless of whether one thinks that Dibble needed to be fired, the team responses strike me as being disproportionate.

      • bowdenball - Sep 30, 2015 at 9:17 AM

        A couple problems with this logic:

        1. Suspending a player in the middle of the season harms the team and its fans, especially if that player is the best of a poor lot of relievers. Suspending Dibble harmed no one. If Papelbon was, say, a member of the training staff, then you could analogize his suspension to Dibble’s. But in this case you’re comparing apples and oranges.

        2. Papelbon’s suspension was for the remainder of the season. That just happened to require only four games because of the timing, but it wasn’t like they looked at the incident and decided four days was appropriate. They just didn’t want him around for the rest of the year now that they’d been eliminated and he could no longer offer anything to his teammates or the fans until at least 2016. If he’d tried to choke Harper last week and the Nats had already been eliminated from the playoffs at that point (see #1) he would have gotten a longer suspension

      • natsfan1a - Sep 30, 2015 at 10:16 AM

        Yes, well, I make no claims to be a master of logic.

        1. I wasn’t looking at timelines as far as when a given offense occurred. I was looking at punishments. And had a trainer or broadcaster tried to strangle a player, I would feel the same way. 😉

        2. To clarify, for me, there is no magic number of games suspended that would be enough. I want the man gone. Your mileage may vary.

      • bowdenball - Sep 30, 2015 at 11:05 AM

        And to clarify, natsfan1a, I want him gone too 🙂

      • natsfan1a - Sep 30, 2015 at 11:21 AM

        Thx, BB, we’re on the same page overall. 🙂

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