ATLANTA -- Had the Braves not run out of sensible options in the starting-pitching department, they might have kept Matt Wisler in the bullpen for a significant portion of this season's final month. But despite the fact that he hit a rough patch during the fourth inning of Thursday's 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays, Wisler has recently provided indication he can make necessary adjustments while serving as a starter.
"For me, it's night and day, the way he's been able to go about it ever since he pitched those two innings out of the bullpen in Washington [D.C.]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "In his past couple starts, he's been aggressive. Now when we get ahead in the count, we've got to make pitches and expand [the strike zone] a little bit in those counts. This is just part of the learning process you go through with a young pitcher."
Making his second start since completing two scoreless innings in an unexpected relief appearance on Sept. 6 at Nationals Park, Wisler allowed the Blue Jays four runs and nine hits over six innings. Each of those four runs and five of those hits were tallied within a span of six plate appearances during the fourth inning.
Edwin Encarnacion drilled a leadoff homer on an 0-1 fastball and Cliff Pennington sent an 0-2 fastball over the right-center-field wall for a three-run homer that capped the fourth-inning eruption. But instead of sulking and allowing his psyche to be damaged by this quick turn of events, Wisler showed the Braves some fight as he held the Blue Jays scoreless over his final two innings.
"In the fourth inning, I could have easily quit, like I had been in August," Wisler said. "So, luckily I battled through that. I feel mentally stronger going out there and not caving in on a situation."
When Wisler allowed the Nationals seven earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings on Sept. 3, he found himself with a 9.49 ERA over a seven-start stretch dating back to Aug. 1. The Braves attempted to enhance his aggression level by bringing him out of the bullpen just three days later. His two scoreless relief innings against the Nats on Sept. 6 were supposed to be the first of multiple relief appearances. But with Manny Banuelos sidelined with a season-ending elbow injury and Mike Foltynewicz still attempting to regain the strength he lost while battling pneumonia, Wisler has taken advantage of the chance to continue starting.
Still, Wisler has continued to provide the reminder that he is just three months into his Major League career. His slider proved effective against Toronto's right-handed batters. But he allowed seven hits and issued a walk while facing 13 left-handed batters. The Mets' lefties went 5-for-10 against him during a six-inning start last week.
Gonzalez was simply happy with the moxie Wisler showed after the Blue Jays battered him in the fourth.
"He gave us six innings, and I know in the grand scheme of things that's not a big deal, but it is when you're developing young pitching," Gonzalez said. "It is a good sign to see them go out there an extra two innings and compete."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.