published Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Atlanta Braves lose to Florida Marlins

MIAMI — Struggling to secure a postseason berth, the Atlanta Braves were thwarted by a playoff-caliber pitching performance.

Javier Vazquez allowed only two hits in seven innings Wednesday against his former team, and the Florida Marlins played the spoiler’s role by beating Atlanta 4-0.

The Braves, who lost for the 13th time in their past 20 games, began the night with a 2 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card race. The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games back on Aug. 25.

For the third start in a row, Vazquez (12-11) did not allow a run. He extended his streak of scoreless innings to 25, a Marlins record for a starter.

The Braves trailed 3-0 before mustering their best threat in the seventh. Brian McCann led off with a walk and took third on a two-out double by Jason Heyward, but Jack Wilson flied out to end the inning.

Leo Nunez walked two in the ninth before retiring Heyward to complete a two-hitter. It was the ninth time the Braves have been shut out.

Vazquez retired the first 10 batters before Martin Prado singled in the fourth. McCann was then hit by a pitch, but Vazquez escaped by retiring Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman.

Even Chipper Jones coming off the bench failed to give the Braves a boost. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth after returning from a brief trip to Atlanta to be with his son, who underwent a non-emergency surgical procedure.

Derek Lowe (9-16) improved from recent outings but lost his fourth start in a row. He allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings.

The Marlins took the three-game series despite going 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position. The lone hit was an RBI double by Gaby Sanchez in the second inning.

Brett Hayes hit his fifth homer leading off the fifth, and Logan Morrison added his 22nd in the eighth.

The game was the last for Atlanta on the field where the Marlins have played since their first season in 1993. The teams went 75-75 in the stadium.

Vazquez pitched for the Braves in 2009 and hadn’t faced them since 2005. He struck out six and walked one.

The 35-year-old right-hander has won his past five starts while allowing one earned run in 36 innings, an ERA of 0.25. It has been a remarkable turnaround by Vazquez, who had the highest ERA in the majors at 7.09 in mid-June.

Notes: Atlanta SS Alex Gonzalez (strained right calf) didn’t play but said he hopes to rejoin the lineup Friday. ... Braves RHP Tim Hudson, scheduled to start Friday at Washington, is 13-3 in 22 starts against the Nationals with an ERA of 1.95. ... RHP Jair Jurrjens (right knee) said he felt good after throwing 50 pitches in a bullpen session Wednesday. He might be available for the second round of the playoffs if the Braves advance that far. ... Florida RHP Chris Volstad, scheduled to start Friday at Milwaukee, is 0-2 over his past five starts despite an ERA of 2.97. ... The previous Marlins record for consecutive scoreless innings by a starter was held by RHP Pat Rapp, who threw 24 2-3 in 1995.

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