Atlanta Braves fans may be in panic mode, but the Braves themselves are simply hoping for an easier run in the last week of September than the first three. Former Brave Javier Vazquez threw seven shutout innings against them Wednesday for the Florida Marlins to shrink their Wild Card lead to 1.5 games.
Though Derek Lowe performed much better than recent days with his new look delivery, Vazquez simply dominated, allowing a grand total of two hits and a walk over his seven shutout innings in the 4-0 loss.
"Javy’s pitching really well. He’s pitching like he did when he was with us.Just watching him from the side, he had that riding fastball that not a lot of people could catch up to. He’s always had the good changeup and the curveball," Chipper Jones said.
The Braves were not helped by the absence of Jones, who had flown back to Atlanta to oversee his son Shea's sinus surgery and was not able to return until after the start of the game.
Lowe, however, looked much improved during his 6 1/3 inning outing. The three runs he allowed than the six he gave up in less than three innings Sept. 16.
Lowe's few mistakes came on sinkers he left up in the zone that led to an RBI double by Gaby Sanchez in the second inning and a fifth inning lead-off homer by Brett Hayes, though he was more disconcerted by his balk in the fifth inning that moved Mike Stanton to third and set up Bryan Peterson's sacrifice fly.
"The balk gave them that insurance run. I was caught in-between, had a changeup grip and I saw that Jack (Wilson) was working him over there, and I just moved everything at once," Lowe said, though the balk was in no way decisive in his outing.
What was probably more decisive was that Vazquez was perfect through his first ten batters before Martin Prado singled to right. The only other Braves hit came in the seventh inning on a Jason Heyward off the left field wall.
Atlanta has now lost 13 of their last 20 games, while the St. Louis Cardinals have won 12 of their last 14. The 8 1/2 game lead the Braves held at the beginning of the month has now been trimmed to just 1 1/2 games.
"We've definitely made it kind of tough on ourselves," Lowe said. "But we're still going to have the lead going into Friday night. We need to realize if we keep winning, we're going to make it."
The Braves will now enjoy a day off in Washington before starting up a three-game series with the Nationals on Friday. Though the reliable Tim Hudson (15-10, 3.19 ERA) will take the hill for Atlanta, the challenge for Braves hitters will be getting anything done against the recently returned Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 1.29 ERA), who in his return from Tommy John surgery pitched six inning on 61 pitches.
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