MIAMI (AP) - The way Javier Vazquez is pitching lately, he may not give up another run for the rest of his career.
The 35-year-old right-hander is contemplating retirement, even though he has never pitched better. He allowed only two hits in seven innings Wednesday to help the Florida Marlins beat the slumping Atlanta Braves, 4-0.
The result reduced Atlanta's lead in the NL wild-card race to 1 1/2 games over St. Louis. Vazquez (12-11) accelerated the Braves' skid while extending his streak of scoreless innings to 25, a Marlins record for a starter.
``I'm just trying to do my best out there until my final start,' said Vazquez, who has one to go this season.
For the third consecutive outing, Vazquez didn't allow a run. He 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. He wants to spend more time with his family and said his success of late won't influence his decision about retirement.
``It's got nothing to do with whether I'm pitching good or bad,' he said. ``That's not my thinking.'
Said manager Jack McKeon: ``The second half of the season, he has been spectacular. You hate to even think about him quitting, but that's his prerogative.'
Atlanta's lead the NL wild-card race was sliced when St. Louis beat the New York Mets 6-5. The Cardinals were 10 1/2 back on Aug. 25, but the Braves have lost 13 of their past 20 games.
``I'm still optimistic that this club has enough in the tank to get it done,' the Braves' Chipper Jones said. ``We've still got everybody in the rearview mirror. We've just got to go take care of business.'
Six games remain in the Braves' regular season. They're off Thursday, then begin a three-game series at Washington.
``Maybe it's good to have a day off,' manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ``You come out of this stuff and become a better club when you get through it.'
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 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 7-year-old son, who underwent sinus surgery.
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.
``We made it definitely kind of tough on ourselves,' Lowe said. ``But we're still going to have the lead going into Friday night. We've got to realize if we keep winning, we're going to make it. As bad as it stinks right now, you still have control over what's going to happen.'
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.
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.
The Associated Press News Service
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