Braves need lift from Lowe in finale

Braves need lift from Lowe in finale

HOUSTON -- If the Atlanta Braves hope to launch a last-gasp bid for a National League Wild Card berth, they will need more outings such as Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros.

Javier Vazquez threw seven scoreless innings to help the Braves end a streak of five consecutive losses, and the Braves turn to Derek Lowe in Thursday's finale before heading to St. Louis for the weekend. Houston will counter with Roy Oswalt, who has two playoff wins against the Braves but has yet to defeat them in the regular season.

Atlanta is the only National League team Oswalt has never beaten in the regular season. He's 0-2 with a 6.18 ERA in six career starts against the Braves. His only appearance against them this year came on May 3, when he started and pitched one inning before a long rain delay ended his day.

In the playoffs, Oswalt is 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA against the Braves in three starts, beating them in the National League Division Series in 2004 and again in Game 3 of the 2005 NLDS. He has started six games against them in the regular season, yielding 35 hits and 21 runs (19 earned) in 27 2/3 innings.

"We play Houston only six times [a year]," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Sometimes, we don''t even see Roy. It's a good old National League pitching matchup."

Oswalt didn't faced the Braves in the regular season from 2006-08.

Cox was at a loss to explain the recent skid that dropped the Braves to 7 1/2 games behind in the Wild Card race. He does know what it will take to regain momentum.

"It's no fun losing five in a row when you are in the middle of trying to qualify for the playoffs," Cox said. "We played well. We got good pitching and made all kinds of great plays. We just hit a streak like the Phillies did. Four [losses] in a row for them and five for us.

"We need to put a six- or seven-game win streak together. Something of that sort. It's got to be done."

The Braves are counting on Lowe to reverse his recent pitching fortunes in much the same way that Vazquez has. Following a 5-7 start to the season, Vazquez has gone 7-2 in his last 12 starts. That run includes a pair of shutouts and a one-run outing.

"He's had no luck all season," Cox said. "We ought to be talking about him for Cy Young, quite honestly. He deserved that win [Tuesday]. He's pitched like that in almost every start."

Pitching matchup
ATL: RHP Derek Lowe (13-9, 4.36 ERA)
Lowe is coming off a tough 3-1 loss to Cincinnati in which he gave up three earned runs in seven innings, with five strikeouts. The loss snapped a run of two successive wins for Lowe. He has eight career starts against the Astros, going 3-3 with a 3.10 ERA. In 52 1/3 innings against Houston, Lowe has allowed 18 earned runs on 51 hits, with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks.

HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt (8-5, 3.77 ERA)
Oswalt held the Phillies to two hits through six scoreless innings Saturday before being forced to leave with tightness in his back. Oswalt wound up getting his 15th no-decision of the season, which ties Pete Harnisch (1992) and Jim Deshaies ('90) for the most in club history in one season. Oswalt started against the Braves on May 2 in Atlanta, but pitched only one inning because of a long rain delay. Atlanta is the only National League team Oswalt has never beaten in the regular season (0-2, 6.18 ERA in six starts).

Tidbits
First baseman Adam LaRoche has hit safely in 27 of his 34 games since re-joining the Braves. ... The Braves entered Wednesday tied for second in the Majors with 83 quality starts this year. They received another on Wednesday from Tommy Hanson, who tossed eight scoreless innings. He took the loss, however, the Braves' record to 54-29 when they get a quality start. ... David Ross's seven homers are the most by a player with 120 at-bats or fewer. ... Outfielder Garret Anderson is 19 hits shy of 2,500 for his career.

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Up next
• Friday: Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 10-10, 2.93) at Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 14-9, 3.28), 8:15 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Braves (Tim Hudson, 1-0, 2.19) at Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 5-8, 4.62), 4:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Braves (Javier Vazquez, 12-9, 3.06) at Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, 16-3, 2.16), 2:15 p.m. ET

Steven Thomson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.