(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Braves fell out of the top spot in the National League East again and their chances of getting back there don't appear so promising with Derek Lowe scheduled to take the mound tonight versus the Washington Nationals in the opener of a three-game series at Turner Field.
Lowe has lost all three of his starts against the Nationals this season and fell victim to the NL East rivals on August 19, when he was reached for four runs in seven innings of a 6-2 loss. In 21 career games (15 starts) against the Washington franchise, Lowe is 6-7 with three saves and a 4.12 ERA.
The right-hander, however, ended a four-start winless drought in last Wednesday's 9-3 win at Pittsburgh, as Lowe held the hosts to only a run on eight hits in six innings. The win evened his 2010 mark at 12-12 in 29 starts to go along with a subpar 4 42 ERA.
Atlanta has lost seven of the last 11 games and failed in its bid for a series triumph over St. Louis with Sunday night's 7-3 loss in the finale of a four- game set. Braves ace Tim Hudson had an off day by allowing six runs and nine hits in just five innings.
Nate McLouth homered and Alex Gonzalez finished 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Braves, who are a game behind Philadelphia in the NL East. The Phillies took back sole possession of the division lead with Sunday's win over the Mets.
"You always want to win the series, especially at home," said McLouth. "You look to win the series. That's a good team over there. They played us pretty well this series. We know the playoff chase is going to be close so we're not frustrated. We'll come back out [Monday] ready to go."
Despite the loss, the Braves are still an impressive 51-21 at home and currently own the lead in the wild card standings. Braves Rookie of the Year prospect Jason Heyward has five home runs and 15 RBI since August 22.
Washington started a recent six-game homestand with a win over New York, but ended up losing the next five games on the residency. It was swept in three games by Florida over the weekend and dropped a 6-5 decision Sunday.
Jordan Zimmermann absorbed the loss and was reached for five runs -- four earned -- in only three innings on the hill.
"I'm still trying to work some kinks out," Zimmermann said. "It's unacceptable to go out there and not have good control."
Ivan Rodriguez had three RBI, while Ryan Zimmerman and Roger Bernadina both went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Washington, which will begin a six-game road trip tonight against the Braves and Phillies.
Young Cuban starter Yunesky Maya gets the nod for the Nationals Monday and he will make his second career start. Maya made his major league debut in last Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Mets at Nationals Park, as he allowed all four runs and five hits in five innings. The righty struck out three and walked two.
The 2010 season series between the Nationals and Braves is tied at six games apiece, but Atlanta has won four of six matchups at Turner Field.