A.J. Pierzynski is still pretty good for a 38-year-old catcher.
The veteran backstop was the Braves' only supply of offense on the night, cracking a pair of solo home runs to lead Atlanta to 2-1 series-opening win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Turner Field.
Pierzynski poked a ball into the right-field seats in the fourth inning to stake the Braves to a 1-0 lead for rookie starter Matt Wisler. He would break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with a line drive rocket to right-center field to lift Atlanta to victory.
"I'm just trying to put the ball in play," Pierzynski told SportSouth's Andre Aldridge following the game. "(After the first homer), I went up to (hitting coach Kevin Seitzer) and go, 'I don't know how I just did that.' He started laughing."
The man signed to be Atlanta's backup catcher before the season has been great all season long, keeping his average near the .300 mark for most of the year. Adding in a single in his first plate appearance, Pierzynski was 3-for-3 on the night to raise his batting average to .299.
"He puts the ball in play, and he finds grass all the time," Fredi Gonzalez said after the game.
Wisler continued his good work since a brief bullpen stint, going at least six innings for the fourth consecutive start. He battled out of some jams, but the only dent the Nationals made in the scoreboard came on a solo homer off the bat of Trea Turner. The rookie's blast on the first pitch of the sixth inning was his first career big fly. Wisler finished the night with a line of seven innings, five hits, one run, two walks, and four strikeouts. He improved his record 7-8 on the season and will get one more chance to get it to .500 mark.
"He pitched really well," Gonzalez said, referring to Wisler. "I'm glad it came out to where he's going to get the last start of the season. The way he's been pitching the last five or six starts, he deserves that -- to run him out there one more time."
"Going into next year, I've got to start earning my spot now," Wisler said. "That's what September has been for me -- trying to show that I can pitch up here and showing that I can get outs up here."
Perhaps Wisler's best work came in the first inning, as back-to-back hits to start the game brought up the heart of the order -- Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Clint Robinson. Wisler retired all three men in order to escape the inning unscathed.
"I was just trying to work through that," Wisler said. "Obviously, Harper is a really talented hitter. That was a big inning for me."
Edwin Jackson and Arodys Vizcaino locked down the win for Wisler, as both relievers escaped trouble with big double plays to end the eighth and ninth innings. Vizcaino notched his eighth save of the year since taking over the closer's role.
One would be hard-pressed to find a player that has gotten out on more hard-hit balls since joining the Braves last month in Michael Bourn. But Bourn has been on an uptick lately, extending his hitting streak to eight games with a line drive to right field in the third inning.
Ian Desmond recorded the only other extra base hit of the night aside from the three homers with his double in the second inning. Desmond also walked, and was the only other National aside from Turner to reach base more than once. Turner finished the night 2-for-3 with a walk.
Third baseman Hector Olivera was hit on the elbow in the fifth inning and left the game in favor of Jace Peterson. Olivera was hit squarely on the large, red elbow guard that he wears, but is being listed as day-to-day following the game.
Washington starter Tanner Roark kept up his solid track record against the Braves with 6.2 innings of four-hit ball. He surrendered five hits, walked a batter, and struck out four, as the only runs he gave up came off Pierzynski's bat.
Courtesy of Kevin McAlpin of the Braves Radio Network, Atlanta has somehow won 20 consecutive one-run games at home this season, which is an MLB record. This is astounding considering the team's overall success, but nonetheless impressive.
The Braves will send Williams Perez to the mound Wednesday night against Jordan Zimmermann. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET on SportSouth.