By Mark Bowman and Jacob Emert
MLB.com |@mlbbowman |
WASHINGTON -- Led by the planet's hottest hitter in Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals hammered their way to within six games of the Mets in the National League East with a 15-1 win over the Braves on Thursday night.
The Nats chased Braves starter Matt Wisler after 1 2/3 innings and seven runs, but they kept on slugging. By the end, the Nationals collected 17 hits, drew eight walks (four by Bryce Harper alone) and clubbed five doubles, which tied a season high.
"Everybody was really patient tonight, getting good ones to hit. And when they got them, they put them in play hard," manager Matt Williams said. "Good attack offensively. Patience and power."
The Braves used eight pitchers while losing for the 16th time in their past 17 games. This was their third time in a week that they have allowed at least 15 runs. But it marked just the second time in franchise history that they allowed at least 15 runs while recording two hits or fewer. The previous occurrence was May 29, 1936.
"It's not good and it hurts, especially the way we've been losing," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "There's a way to lose and today wasn't one of those ways. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Too hot to handle: Nationals fans climbed to their feet before Zimmerman's at-bat in the first inning, a display of respect for the first baseman who hit career home runs Nos. 199 and 200 on Wednesday in St. Louis. The offensive showcase continued on Thursday, when Zimmerman knocked two doubles, one single and a sacrifice fly, good for four RBIs. In the past 11 games, Zimmerman is 17-for-42 (.404) with five doubles, seven home runs and 23 RBIs.
"That's why Bryce didn't swing at a pitch and scored four runs. There's your proof in the pudding right there," Williams said of Zimmerman, who provides Harper with protection in the lineup. "He's been more aggressive early in the count, which is important for him depending on the situation. And he's seeing it good."
Another rookie clunker: Wisler retired the first two batters he faced and then walked Harper ahead of Zimmerman's first double and Clint Robinson's two-run single. Washington's five-run second inning might have developed differently had Nick Markakis secured a Wilson Ramos drive that was ruled a double. But this was just another ugly night for Wisler, who was unable to command his fastball while lasting fewer than three innings for the second time in his past three starts. The rookie has produced a 9.49 ERA in his past seven starts.
"Two outs in the first inning and eight pitches later, they have two runs," Wisler said. "I need to start making pitches. My ball is getting up a little bit. I felt pretty good out of the windup today. But right now, with guys on base and I'm in the stretch, the ball is staying up and they're putting it in play." More >
Harper still scores: Harper scored after each of the four walks he drew in his four plate appearances. It's the first time in modern history that a hitter has drawn at least four walks and scored four runs and driven in a run without a hit or an at-bat.
"I've got confidence in everybody on our team to get a job done behind me," Harper said. "I'll take my walks when I can. And when they throw the ball over the plate, I'll take my hits, too." More >
"I guess a little too much Little League World Series. It caught up to me." -- Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, who balked in the second inning when he went to the windup with a runner on base and stepped off with the wrong foot
"It's hard to pinpoint anything. You're going out there and we've got 28 games left. All you can do is go out there and try as hard as you possibly can. Yeah, you can have anybody come off the street and try as hard as they possibly can. We do get paid to do this and we have to turn it around." -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, after his club lost for the 23rd time in its past 25 road games
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Braves allowed 15 earned runs in 10 of the 3,948 games played from April 10, 1991 until Aug. 27, 2015. They have now done so in three of the seven games that have followed.
MORE TO COME FOR TURNER Trea Turner, the Nationals' No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, recorded his first Major League hit in the seventh inning. He beat out an infield single that second baseman Jace Peterson had trouble gripping and first baseman Nick Swisher dropped. Turner is now 1-for-10 in his big league career.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves: Atlanta will attempt to halt its woes when Julio Teheran takes the mound for Friday night's 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Nationals at Nationals Park. Teheran showed some promise with the first five starts he made in August, but he allowed eight earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings against the Yankees on Sunday.
Nationals: Tanner Roark will shift from the bullpen to the rotation on Friday, when he starts for an injured Stephen Strasburg against Atlanta. Roark is 3-1 with a 5.65 ERA in six games as a starter this season. Williams said Roark is stretched out to throw around 85 pitches.