ATLANTA (AP) If this was Williams Perez’ final audition for a spot in the Atlanta Braves rotation for 2016, he’s got to be happy heading into the offseason.
The rookie right-hander threw six innings and the Braves’ bullpen did the rest as they recorded a rare shutout in beating the Washington Nationals 2-0 on Wednesday night.
”It feels really good to finish the season the way I have, especially after coming off that injury,” Perez said. ”That was such a low point. This is a high point heading into the offseason.”
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Perez (7-6) injured his foot in late June and struggled when he returned. But in six September starts, he was 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA.
”Just having confidence in my stuff,” he said. ”I wasn’t fighting it. Just letting it do what it does. Just having confidence that the pitches are going to work.”
A.J. Pierzynski had an RBI single in the first inning one night after hitting two home runs, and Michael Bourn singled home the Braves’ other run in the second.
Rookie Arodys Vizcaino earned his 10th save – and second in two nights – with a perfect ninth. This was the Braves’ first shutout since beating the Mets 1-0 on June 21. Edwin Jackson and Peter Moylan pitched perfect innings out of the bullpen.
”Vizcaino has done a great job,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ”He really has. We’ve given him every opportunity to finish games.”
Jordan Zimmermann (13-10), a fixture in the Nationals’ rotation since 2011, took the loss in what will likely be his final appearance for the team that drafted him in 2007. Zimmermann, a free agent at the end of the season, gave up two runs and six hits in six innings in his career-high 33rd start.
”When I first got drafted we were at the bottom,” Zimmermann said. ”We rose to the top and made the playoffs a few times. I’ve enjoyed every day. This year didn’t go the way we wanted it to go but we’re still battling, we’re still grinding. Every game counts and everyone’s giving their all.”
Perez worked his way out of trouble all game. The Nationals had runners in scoring position in four of the six innings Perez was on the mound, but he was able to keep them off the scoreboard each time. The Braves turned two double plays for Perez, giving the team a MLB-best 181 for the season. Perez allowed six hits and three walks while winning his third consecutive decision.
Pierzynski singled home Nick Markakis with a bloop to left field in the first inning, and Bourn drove in Todd Cunningham in the second and that accounted for the Braves’ offense.
Bryce Harper, who is battling for the National League batting title, went 0 for 4 and saw his average drop to .331. He entered the game hitting .334 while Miami’s Dee Gordon was at .332.
The Braves have won five straight at Turner Field – scoring two runs in each of the wins – just weeks after setting a franchise record with 12 consecutive home losses.
Nationals: 3B Yunel Escobar was scratched from the lineup with back spasms. He is day-to-day.
Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman will not start again this season due to a sore wrist, but he will be available to pinch-hit. Freeman said tests have indicated surgery is not necessary at this time. . 3B Hector Olivera, who was removed from Tuesday’s game after getting hit by a pitch on the left elbow, returned to the lineup. He was 0 for 4.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-7, 3.63) will make his 23rd and final start of the season in the series finale. Strasburg threw five shutout innings against the Braves during a 3-1 win on June 23. He is 5-7 with a 4.01 ERA in his career vs. Atlanta.
Braves: Rookie Ryan Weber (0-2, 5.91) will make his fifth career start since getting called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on Sept. 8. He gave up seven runs in two innings in his last start against Miami.