WASHINGTON — September began where August ended for Matt Wisler, who failed to pitch through two innings in the shortest start of his rookie season.
And that was only the beginning of the Atlanta Braves' latest blowout loss.
Wisler (5-6) allowed seven runs over 1 2-3 innings, six relievers combined to give up eight more, and the Braves fell 15-1 to the Washington Nationals on Thursday night, their ninth straight loss.
Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and four RBIs, Clint Robinson was 2 for 4 and had four RBIs, and Yunel Escobar had three hits and drove in three runs for Washington. Bryce Harper tied a career high with walks in all four of his plate appearances, including twice against Wisler.
Despite a young pitching staff learning on the job, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he expects them to find a way out of their struggles after allowing 15 runs for a third time in a week.
"The stuff that we've been seeing, it's really unacceptable," Gonzalez said. "These guys are professional, they're major leaguers, some of these guys have a lot of years playing in the minor leagues. And for them to get hit around like that is not really acceptable."
Jordan Zimmermann (12-8) allowed a run, two hits and an uncharacteristic four walks over six innings, as Washington moved within six games of the NL East-leading New York Mets, who were off Thursday.
Gonzalez said he hoped his pitchers would learn from the Nationals right-hander.
"Hopefully they're watching," said Gonzalez, whose team ERA is 4.53. "That might've been the worst Jordan Zimmermann I've seen in a long, long time. . But he competed and gave them six innings, and obviously the offense helped them."
Hector Oliveira drove in Atlanta's only run on an RBI groundout.
Wisler hasn't won since July 26, going 0-5 with a 9.49 ERA in his last seven starts.
"It's been a rough month," the rookie said. "Every fifth day, I try to go out there and improve on what I did, but I haven't been."
He retired his first two batters before issuing his first walk to Harper. Zimmerman followed with a double off the wall on a first-pitch fastball, and Robinson drove in both with a single to make it 2-0.
Things kept spiraling in a five-run second. Ian Desmond doubled and scored on Wilson Ramos' double. Four batters later, Harper's bases-loaded walk forced in a run, Zimmerman drove in another with a sacrifice fly, and Robinson walked to load the bases again and chase the starter.
"Tonight I was always in the stretch. I struggled from the stretch," Wisler said. "So hopefully I work on that and figure it out in the next five days."
Escobar singled in the last two runs of the inning off reliever Sugar Ray Marimon, the beginning of another long night for the bullpen.
RHP Ryan Kelly had the Braves' only clean outing, allowing a solitary hit in 1 1-3 innings. It was the 27-year-old rookie's fourth outing out of 10 without an earned run.
After scoring following each of his walks, Harper joined Larry Doby (1951), Joe Morgan (1973) and Rickey Henderson (1989) as the only players to score four runs without an official at-bat since 1914, according to STATS.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session Thursday and is expected to rejoin the rotation next week against the Mets. ... OF Michael Taylor (right knee soreness) was out of the lineup for the second straight game, but was available off the bench according to manager Matt Williams.
Braves RHP Julio Tehran (9-7, 4.62) allowed eight earned runs in 4 1-3 innings last week against the Yankees. He's 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 career starts versus Washington. Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.54) goes in place of Strasburg. Roark is 3-1 with a 5.65 ERA in six starts this season.