Pierzynski hits 2 HRs as Braves beat Nationals 2-1
ATLANTA (AP) Catcher A.J. Pierzynski has been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary season for the Atlanta Braves.
The veteran catcher signed expecting to play roughly 50 games this year. Instead, the backstop played his 111th game Tuesday, and it was one of his best.
Pierzynski, 38, was 3 for 3 with two home runs and started a crucial double play in the ninth inning as the Braves beat Washington 2-1 for their fourth win in 17 tries against the Nationals.
''He's caught over 100 games and hitting .300 (.299),'' Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ''He's doing a heck of a job for us.''
Pierzynski also guided Matt Wisler to one of his finest starts of the season, as the rookie improved to 7-8 by allowing one run and five hits in seven innings while striking out four.
''It was good to see, because he struggled against the Nationals (on Sept. 3),'' Pierzynski said. ''Hopefully, it gives him confidence, and he can carry it over to his next start and then the offseason. It was a good experience for him.''
Rookie Arodys Vizcaino recorded his eighth save in nine chances. With runners on first and second and no outs in the ninth, Ian Desmond bunted into a 2-5-4 double play. Vizcaino then struck out Matt den Dekker to end it.
''I know Ian can hit a homer because I've seen him hit a bunch of homers,'' Pierzynski said. ''It is a smart play. You can get second and third. Luckily for us, he made a bunt that went right to me, and I was able to pick it up and turn the double play.''
Tanner Roark (4-7), who rejoined the Nationals' rotation in September, took the loss. He handled everyone in the Braves' lineup except Pierzynski, giving up just five hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out four, walked one and hit a batter.
Pierzynski's second home run came while leading off the seventh and broke a 1-1 tie as he lifted a 3-2 pitch into the right-center field seats. He also hit a solo shot to right field in the fourth. It was just the third multihomer game by a Brave this season - Atlanta is last in the league in home runs.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Braves, who avoided their first 100-loss season since 1988 with win No. 63.
Rookie Trea Turner hit his first major league home run to account for the Nationals' only run. He led off the sixth inning with a drive to left field off Wisler that tied the game 1-1.
Bryce Harper, playing in his first game since being involved in a fight with teammate Jonathan Papelbon in the Nationals dugout Sunday, was 0 for 3 with a walk, including an inning-ending double play in the eighth.
Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman will likely not play in the season's final week due to an oblique strain. ... 3B Yunel Escobar missed the series opener with a sore upper back. He is likely to play the next five games.
Braves: 3B Hector Olivera left the game after getting hit on the left elbow with a Roark fastball. Olivera said after the game he expects to be ready to play Wednesday. . 1B Freddie Freeman (wrist) started and is day to day. The plan is to play him Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and have him available to pinch hit Thursday and Sunday. ... LF Adonis Garcia was in the original lineup but was scratched with a sore back and replaced by Nick Swisher.
Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann (13-9, 3.68) could be making his final start with the Nationals in the second game of the series at Atlanta. Zimmermann will be a free agent at the end of the season. He was drafted by the Nationals in 2007 and has a 70-49 career record, making at least 32 starts each of the past four seasons, including this year. He is 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in five starts vs. the Braves this year.
TAKING A WALK
Harper set an Expos/Nats franchise record with his 124th walk, breaking a mark set in 1973 by Ken Singleton. He walked with two outs and the bases empty in the fourth inning.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Braves have won 20 straight home games decided by one run, a major league record.