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Vazquez's complete game sends Braves past Nats

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WASHINGTON (AP)

Bobby Cox sat in his chair, his post-game victory cigar lit and watched a game on television. Just minutes after he watched Javier Vazquez throw a complete game to keep his Atlanta Braves' flickering wild card hopes alive, Cox was rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves began Friday night 3 1/2 games behind Colorado for the NL wild card, and after Vazquez stifled the Washington Nationals with a three-hitter in Atlanta's 4-1 victory, Cox had his eyes on the Cardinals-Rockies game. "They need to beat those mountain boys up a little bit," Cox said. Cox could relax because he watched Vazquez throw his third complete game of the season and second in three starts. Vazquez (15-9) allowed a leadoff home run to Josh Bard, his sixth, in the eighth inning. Vazquez also gave a leadoff single to Willie Harris in the first and a one-out double to Ryan Zimmerman in the fourth. He retired 11 straight between Zimmerman's double and Bard's homer. Vazquez, who won his fifth straight, struck out seven and walked one. He is 10-2 since July 7. "Nowadays, there are not a lot of complete games," Vazquez said. "When I'm on the mound, I want to throw eight, nine innings." The Braves have won four straight and 12 of 14. "It's important for us to win every game from now on because Colorado is ahead," Vazquez said. "We're playing great defense." While the Braves are playing great defense, the Nationals are not. Three of Atlanta's four runs were unearned. The fourth came on Martin Prado's homer in the ninth. Vazquez walked to the mound with a 2-0 lead, thanks to a madcap first inning. With two outs, Chipper Jones lined a ball at right fielder Josh Willingham, which he said he lost in the lights. Jones was awarded a single. After Brian McCann walked, Yunel Escobar's grounder went through second baseman Pete Orr's legs for a two-base error, scoring Jones. Garret Anderson's fly ball fell between center fielder Justin Maxwell and left fielder Harris for a base hit to score McCann. "You get the extra at-bat, you've got to take them when you get them," Cox said. All season long, the Nationals, who lost for the 101st time, have given their opponents a lot of extra at-bats. They have committed 135 errors - by far the most in major leagues. "Basically, we're in a funk here where if it can go wrong, it's going to go wrong," Washington interim manager Jim Riggleman said. On Thursday, Washington became the first National League team in 35 years to lose 100 games in consecutive seasons. John Lannan (9-13) allowed two unearned runs in seven innings for the Nationals, who lost for the 101st time - one shy of last year's total. Lannan threw a season-high 122 pitches, losing for the fourth time in his last five starts. He allowed six hits, walked three and struck out six and refused to blame his team's shoddy defense. "It's going to happen, it just happened all together," Lannan said. The Braves added a third unearned run in the eighth when Escobar led off with a sinking line drive to center that Maxwell couldn't catch. Shortstop Ian Desmond retrieved it and threw wildly, allowing Escobar to reach second. He moved to third on an infield out and scored on Matt Diaz's single.

Notes

Vazquez is 10-2 on the road, but just 5-7 at Turner Field. ... Escobar, Atlanta's SS, hasn't committed an error in 44 games - a career high. ... Washington C Wil Nieves missed his seventh straight game with a strained hamstring. ... Bard's home run was the 109th allowed by the Braves - lowest in the majors.
Tagged: Braves, Nationals

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