Fister, Nationals blank Braves 3-0

WASHINGTON – On a night when the Braves' Julio Teheran and the Nationals' Doug Fister each pitched impressively, a few timely hits made most of the difference. And the Nationals got all of those hits.

Fister limited the Braves to five hits in eight innings and Anthony Rendon had a pair of two-out RBI hits to lead the Nationals to a 3-0 victory at Nationals Park, only their second win in nine games against the Braves this season and eighth in the past 32 games between the teams.

Catcher Evan Gattis extended his hitting streak to 20 games the Braves, who went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and lost for only the fourth time in their past 16 games at Nationals Park. They slipped back to second place, a half-game behind Washington atop the National League East standings.

“(Teheran) pitched well, gave up three runs,” Braves left fielder Justin Upton said. “That was just too many for tonight. We didn’t do our job as an offense, and they came up with the big hit.”

Teheran (6-5) had a season-high 10 strikeouts and allowed three runs, seven hits and two walks. But he and Gattis couldn’t get on the same page when it came to signaling for pitches, which led to some awkward extended pauses before Teheran delivered some pitches and eventually that issue led to a costly balk.

Teheran shook off the catcher’s signs repeatedly for most of seven innings and was called for a balk when he stepped off the rubber after shaking off multiple pitches with Ryan Zimmerman batting with one out in the sixth inning.

“I let my frustration show,” Teheran said. “I was working really hard to concentrate, to control my emotions. Today was the first time it’s happened to me.”

Adam LaRoche, who had drawn a one-out walk, advanced on the balk and scored when Zimmerman singled to center and B.J. Upton’s field-and-throw was less than stellar. The Nationals led 2-0, a significant margin given the way that Fister (6-2) was dealing.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was asked if frustrations over the signal snafu seemed to boil over with Teheran.

“I thought he was fine,” Gonzalez said. “I think what you’re talking about is a couple of times stepping off and the signs – we go on multiple sets of signs, and I think a couple of times it was not quick enough to get back to (the pitch) he wanted, after shaking off. But I thought he gave us a great opportunity to win the ballgame.”

The Braves have used two sets of signs since the second month of the season, a practice designed to help the pitcher and catcher keep the opponent guessing.

“I was just trying to get a pitch,” Teheran said. “I know I have a lot of pitches; sometimes it’s difficult to see what I’m going to throw, what I want to throw, and I was shaking (off pitches) and that’s when I started getting frustrated. Because I wanted the pitch that I was thinking about, and we weren’t on the same page.

“Multiple signs was kind of confusing a little bit. We were trying to work on multiple signs. I mean, I don’t know what happened. We (used them effectively) in other games before. That didn’t happen.”

Gattis, who has caught some of Teheran’s best games this season, was asked what was different Saturday regarding their communicating the signs.

“I don’t think it was very different,” Gattis said. “It was just frustrating on all parties that we just couldn’t get on the same page…. Sometimes it (happens). That’s when I usually go out and talk (to the pitcher), like ‘Hey, what are you thinking?’ I don’t know, just didn’t get on the same page.

“Sometimes he was shaking on purpose (to throw off the Nationals) and it’s confusing.”

As for the two sets of signs, Gattis said, “No, I don’t think that had anything to do with it. For me.”

While Teheran grew frustrated, Fister settled into a groove. The 6-foot-8 veteran struck out three, walked one, and got the Braves to hit pop-ups and routine grounders all while improving to 6-1 with a 2.02 ERA in his past eight starts.

“He was throwing Wiffle Balls up there tonight,” Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. “You know those balls with the holes in them, that you throw in the backyard? That’s what he uses. I’m serious.”

Fister has won all four of his home starts in his first season with the Nationals, after beginning the season on the disabled list recovering from a lat strain.

“His ball was moving all over the place,” Justin Upton said. “He made it tough on us to square him up. He beat us.”

Fister was staked to a 1-0 lead on Rendon’s two-out single in the third inning, after Jose Lobaton led off with a single and advanced on a Fister sacrifice. It was Rendon who hit the game-tying, two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning Friday against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, in a game the Braves won in 13 innings.

The Braves had their best scoring opportunity Saturday in the first inning after consecutive one-out singles by B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman. But Gattis lined out to second base and and Jason Heyward grounded into a force to end the inning.

They didn’t have another baserunner until Gattis was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning, and didn’t have their third hit until Gattis singled with two out in the sixth, extending his hitting streak. Heyward followed with a walk before Justin Upton popped out to second base to strand the runners.

“We had a couple of opportunities to push a run across, and we just didn’t square him up,” Justin Upton said.

Upton, back in the lineup after missing three starts with a sinus ailment, said he felt good despite not getting a ball out of the infield in four plate appearances, which yielded three groundouts and the pop-up.

The Braves had another scoring chance in the seventh after Johnson’s leadoff single. Andrelton Simmons popped up for the first out and Teheran advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt before Tommy La Stella grounded out to end the inning.

“He’s funky,” Freeman said of Fister. “He’s a big guy. Seems like he’s releasing the ball right in front of your face, and he’s got that quick motion. It’s tough to be able to slow him down, because he’s so quick he makes you want to kind of rush things and get things going.”

La Stella, who has struggled since moving to the leadoff role this week, also grounded out with a runner at second base to end the fifth inning. Simmons had singled with one out and advanced on a Teheran fielder’s choice

Gattis’ streak is the second-longest in the majors this season and the 16th hitting streak of at least 20 games by a Brave since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. The last before Gattis was Dan Uggla’s Atlanta-era record 33-game streak from July 5-Aug. 13, 2011.