Sep 29, 2015, 9:40 PM EDT
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.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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