Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Derek Lowe spun eight scoreless innings and combined with Billy Wagner on a six-hitter in Atlanta's 4-0 victory over Washington in the opener of a three-game set.
Lowe (13-12) allowed all six hits, did not walk a batter and struck out a career-high 12, including the 1,500th of his career, to down the Nationals for the first time in four tries this season. Wagner struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the Braves' major-league best 52nd home win of the season.
"I think it means you've played a long time," Lowe said about the milestone strikeout. "It's one of things when you look back at the end of the season and the end of your career, and say 'yeah, it was pretty neat.' But with three more (starts) to go, you're goal is try to keep pitching like this the rest of the year."
Omar Infante had two hits and drove in a run, while Nate McLouth had an RBI double and scored as the Braves condensed their offense into a four-run rally in the second inning to win for a third time in four games.
Atlanta remained one game behind division-leading Philadelphia, which was victorious over Florida on Monday, in the NL East while pushing their lead in the wild card race to 1 1/2 games over idle San Francisco and San Diego and to three games over Colorado, which is currently playing at home against the Padres.
Yunesky Maya (0-2) took the loss after yielding four runs on five hits and three walks while striking out two over six frames in his second big league start for the Nationals, who matched a season-high with their sixth straight loss.
After being retired in turn in the first, the Braves sent nine men to the plate in the second while producing the game's only runs.
Brian McCann and Derrek Lee opened the inning with consecutive walks and moved up a base when Maya was called for a balk. The Cuban defector was then cited for another balk in the same at-bat that scored McCann and pushed Lee to third from where he scored on McLouth's double to right.
After Alex Gonzalez flied out, Matt Diaz tripled to right to plate McLouth to extend the lead to 3-0. Following a Lowe strike out, Infante dumped a base hit into center to deliver Diaz for a 4-0 advantage.
Lowe did not permit a runner past first base until Nyjer Morgan doubled to start the eighth. However, he remained stationary after the veteran right- hander set down the next three hitters.
"He was good," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who went 2-for-4, said about Lowe's performance. "I think he mixed it up and was throwing to both sides of the plate. He was throwing a lot of those cutter/slider things to righties, which he usually doesn't do. He was definitely on his game."
Infante has reached base with a hit, walk or being hit by a pitch in 40 of his last 41 games...He and McLouth extended their hitting streaks to seven games. Lowe improved to 7-7 in his career against the Nats...Braves' outfielder Jason Heyward went 0-for-2 with a walk and lost a career-best 10-game hit streak. Atlanta is 53-22 when scoring first and 26-21 in the first game of a series. Washington also lost six straight from June 15-20...Nats rookie Danny Espinosa started the game with a single to snap an 0-for-14 drought...Washington's Ian Desmond was Lowe's 1,500th strikeout victim in the fourth inning.