Derek Lowe(notes) finally figured out the Washington Nationals when he faced them earlier this month in Atlanta. With their hopes of winning the NL East all but gone, the slumping Atlanta Braves hope the veteran right-hander can do the same in the nation’s capital.
Lowe looks to win his fourth consecutive start Saturday when the Braves try to snap a four-game losing streak.
After going 1-6 with a 5.44 ERA in nine starts against Washington since the beginning of 2009, Lowe (14-12, 4.18 ERA) struck out a career-high 12 and threw eight innings of six-hit ball in a 4-0 victory Sept. 13.
“Our hitters to a man said that was the best they’ve seen him,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, whose club was trying to defeat the Braves right-hander for the fifth straight time.
Lowe, who has a 1.35 ERA in his last three outings, might need a similar effort the way the Braves (86-68) are swinging the bats. Atlanta is batting .177 and has scored seven total runs during its skid.
“We’ve got to get some back-to-back hits here pretty quick,” said manager Bobby Cox, who was denied his 2,500th career victory in Friday’s 8-3 loss. “We didn’t swing the bats real good tonight - we can swing them a lot better than we did, that’s for darn sure.”
Trailing East-leading Philadelphia by seven games with eight remaining, Atlanta will be eliminated from the division race with a fifth straight loss and a Phillies victory Saturday night against the New York Mets.
The Braves likely will need the wild card to reach the postseason for the first time since 2005. They are involved in a tight race with San Diego and Colorado is also in the mix.
Washington (66-88) has been playing at a high level lately despite being well out of playoff contention.
After losing his first two outings - he surrendered four runs in six innings against Atlanta on Sept. 13 - the rookie right-hander did not earn a decision in Sunday’s 7-6 loss at Philadelphia. The Cuban defector threw 90 pitches during his 4 2-3 innings.
“He pitches on the edges,” Riggleman told the Nationals’ official website. “… They were not strikes. They were borderline as they can be, but that’s the way he pitches. He just couldn’t get the calls. That’s why the pitch count goes so high.”
Dunn is batting .412 with eight RBIs while hitting safely in five straight, but he is 6 for 34 with nine strikeouts versus Lowe, who has lost his last four decisions at Nationals Park.
Washington is 9-7 versus Atlanta and needs one victory over the weekend to win the season series for the second time in three years.