Derek Lowe set a career high with 12 strikeouts and combined with Billy Wagner on a six-hit shutout to lead the Atlanta Braves past the Washington Nationals 4-0 on Monday night.
The Braves began the day one game behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East.
Lowe (13-12) was 0-3 with a 6.11 ERA in his first three starts against Washington this season before delivering an impressive win marked by two personal milestones.
He earned an ovation from the small crowd of 18,647 with his 1,500th career strikeout against Ian Desmond in the fourth. He then struck out Wilson Ramos in the eighth for his 12th of the game.
The right-hander gave up six hits and no walks in eight innings, then Wagner struck out the side in the ninth to complete a game that took just 2 hours and 13 minutes.
The Nationals have lost six straight, matching their longest skid of the season.
Lowe ended August with three straight losses, but has recovered with two strong wins in September. He gave up only one run in six innings of a 9-3 win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday before earning his first win in four 2010 starts against the Nationals.
Washington's 29-year-old rookie, Yunesky Maya (0-2), endured a four-run second to last six innings. He gave up five hits and four runs with three walks and two strikeouts. Ross Detwiler followed Maya with two scoreless innings as the Braves were held to five hits.
Maya trailed 4-0 following a long second inning in which he gave up three hits, walked two batters, hit a batter and was called for two balks. He walked Brian McCann and Derrek Lee to open the inning and was soon called for a paif of balks by plate umpire Dan Iassogna, allowing McCann to score. Nate McLouth's double to right drove in Lee, then Matt Diaz added a run-scoring triple to the right-field corner and scored on Omar Infante's single.
It was Maya's second straight start in which he had a poor early inning, having given up three runs in the first during a 4-1 loss to the Mets on Tuesday.
The right-hander from Cuba was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Sept. 7.
NOTES: It was Atlanta's eighth shutout this season. ... Lowe had 11 strikeouts for the Dodgers against the Angels on June 15, 2007, for his previous career high. His previous high this season was seven against Philadelphia on June 2. ... The Nationals fell to 25-48 on the road. They also lost six straight from June 15-20.