Braves-Nationals Preview

Matt Wisler made an encouraging first impression in his major league debut, and the Atlanta Braves' top pitching prospect likely will need another solid effort for a club that's struggling at the plate.

That's good news for Doug Fister, whose return to the mound for the Washington Nationals didn't go as well as he hoped.

Washington hasn't lost since Fister's last start, and he'll oppose Wisler as the Nationals look to win a sixth straight game in Thursday's series finale.

Wisler was excellent Friday when he allowed one run in eight innings of a 2-1 victory over the New York Mets. He replaced fellow rookie Mike Foltynewicz in the rotation after the struggling right-hander was sent back to the minors.

Regarded as one of baseball's top pitching prospects, the 22-year-old Wisler came over in the April 5 trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. to San Diego.

"The debut went about as well as it could have gone," Wisler told MLB's official website. "Since then, I have just kind of taken it all in while sitting in the dugout watching games and taking in the stadiums. It still hasn't quite hit me that I'm up here."

The right-hander said he felt comfortable on the mound, and he'll have to be just as poised against the first-place Nationals (39-33), who have won a pair of low-scoring games in this series.

Anthony Rendon went 4 for 4 in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Atlanta (35-37) before adding two more hits the next day in a 2-1 win. Ian Desmond hit a sacrifice fly in the 11th inning Wednesday that scored Bryce Harper, who led off the inning with a double.

Harper came up limping on the play but remained in the game after being checked by the training staff.

Desmond's winning RBI came on a night when he went hitless, dropping him to 4 for 37 over his last 10. Manager Matt Williams had Desmond in the starting lineup after benching him for the previous two games.

"He works and works and works," Williams said. "He's told you guys and he's told everybody that he will be OK, and he's going to work out of it.''

The Nationals have been on a roll since losing to Tampa Bay 5-3 last Thursday, when Fister gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings.

Fister (2-3, 4.80 ERA) allowed seven runs and eight hits in two innings of an 8-3 loss to San Diego on May 14 before going on the disabled list with right forearm tightness. He pitched fewer than six innings once while posting a 2.87 ERA in his first six outings.

"It's a work in progress," Fister said. "I know I keep saying that, but that's what it is. I got back some of my base and my roots. I have to get back to what I do best, and that is go with contact. You really have to build up to it. Any time you change mechanics or change your approach, you really do have to take a little bit of time and rebuild back up to midseason strengths."

The right-hander won his first three starts with a 1.23 ERA against the Braves but is 0-1 while allowing eight runs in 12 1-3 innings over two starts this season.

Atlanta has scored one run in three straight, though, and hasn't plated more than two in five of its last six. It loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth Wednesday and got only Kelly Johnson's sacrifice fly that sent the game to extras.

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