Marlins' Vazquez tries to stall Braves' playoff plans
After getting boosted by a pair of youngsters last night, the Atlanta Braves are counting on veteran Derek Lowe to get back on track Wednesday and inch the club closer to a playoff spot.
Atlanta's offense will also have its hands full in dealing with red-hot Florida Marlins starter Javier Vazquez in the finale of a three-game set that will serve as the Braves' last game at Sun Life Stadium.
The Braves suffered a walk-off defeat in Monday's opener to lower their lead for the National League's Wild Card spot to just 2 1/2 games over St. Louis thanks to a seventh loss in 10 games. Atlanta avoided a third straight defeat last night, however, thanks to a 4-0 win that featured homers from rookie Freddie Freeman and veteran Alex Gonzalez as well as Randall Delgado's first career victory.
"If we take care of business, we don't have to worry about [who's] behind us," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the Cardinals, who also won on Tuesday to stay 2 1/2 games back.
Delgado hurled five scoreless innings before Cristhian Martinez and Anthony Varvaro each threw two perfect innings of relief to complete the shutout. The much-needed win gave the Braves a magic number of six to clinch a playoff spot with seven games left.
Atlanta did suffer from a bit of bad news when Gonzalez had to leave the game in the sixth inning due to a right calf strain that is likely to sideline him for the next few days.
Anibal Sanchez lasted just five innings, allowing three runs on five hits and a pair of walks, for Florida, which had won three of four coming in.
The Marlins, who will move into a new ballpark in 2012, have lost seven of eight at home to the Braves this season and 12 of the 17 overall meetings between the teams.
Lowe will look to continue that trend tonight, but has lost all three of his starts this month while pitching to a 10.13 earned run average. His latest setback came on Friday to the New York Mets, as he was tagged for six runs on nine hits in only 2 1/3 innings of work.
"This was terrible," Lowe said of his worst start of the season, which dropped him to 9-15 with a 4.94 ERA on the year.
The 38-year-old righty picked up a victory in Florida on Aug. 8 with six innings of two-run ball and is 3-3 with a pair of saves and 4.50 ERA in 11 career games at Sun Life Stadium.
Lowe will need to be sharp tonight given Vazquez's recent run. The right- hander has won four straight starts, giving up just one run over 29 innings in that time, and is coming off a five-hit shutout of Washington on Friday. It was Vazquez's first complete game since May 25, 2005 while with Arizona.
Vazquez improved his season record to 11-11 with a 3.92 ERA thanks to a strong finish to the season. His ERA of 6.85 was the highest among qualifying starters over his first 14 starts, but he is 8-4 with a 1.96 ERA since.
"It's been nice, obviously after all of my struggles after a year and a half, to go out there and win some ballgames for my team," Vazquez said.
The 35-year-old will face the Braves, whom he pitched for in 2009, for the first time since Aug. 14, 2005 and is 7-10 with a 3.80 ERA against them lifetime.