ATLANTA (AP) - A seven-game winning streak pushed the Arizona Diamondbacks into first place.
A three-game losing skid isn't causing any panic.
Daniel Hudson gave up three homers and the first-place Diamondbacks lost again, falling 4-2 to the Atlanta Braves in a matchup of NL playoff contenders.
Derek Lowe and four relievers combined on a six-hitter for the wild card-leading Braves, who did all their scoring with the long ball. Michael Bourn homered leading off the bottom of the first, Brian McCann took Hudson deep for a two-run shot in the third and Chipper Jones added his second homer in two nights in the sixth.
``Things aren't going smooth for us right now, but that's part of it,' Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. ``It's not a big deal. We're not going to panic.'
Arizona remained 2 1/2 games ahead of defending World Series champion San Francisco in the NL West. The Giants were shut out by lowly Houston 6-0 after losing three of four in Atlanta this week.
Hudson (12-9) went six innings, giving up seven hits and losing for the fourth time in his last six starts. The right-hander threw an even 100 pitches.
``I thought I threw some decent pitches tonight,' Hudson said. ``They're a good veteran lineup over there. I couldn't get them to really chase a lot of pitches off the plate. They made me pay for a couple of mistakes.'
Hudson's fourth pitch wound up in the right-field seats. Bourn, who does most of his damage with speed, went deep for his second homer of the season.
With two outs in the third, Hudson walked Jose Constanza and paid a steep price. McCann drove a 1-1 pitch into the seats for his 20th homer of the season.
The Braves came into the night far behind Philadelphia in the NL East but extended their lead over San Francisco in the wild-card race to seven games.
Jones, who has battled nagging injuries, is feeling as good as he has all year - so good, in fact, that everyone can quit speculating he might retire. He confirmed that he plans to return in 2012 for the final season of his three-year, $42 million contract.
``I feel like I'm contributing,' the 39-year-old Jones said. ``Now, am I putting up numbers like I did in the late '90s and early 2000s? No. But I'm still helping us win ballgames.'
Last season, he considered retiring in the midst of a terrible slump, turned things around, then tore up his left knee in August. That made him more determined to come back for 2011, and he never seriously considered cutting out on a contact that will pay him another $14 million next season.
``This is definitely not a situation where I'm going to say I'm retiring at the end of the year,' Jones said. ``I feel like I've played well this year.'
Manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't thinking ahead to 2012, but he was glad to hear Jones put off any talk of retirement. The third baseman has shaken off several nagging injuries to hit .275 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs.
``He's a big presence in our lineup,' Gonzalez said, ``and in that locker room.'
Lowe (8-11) turned in his best effort in nearly two months, allowing four hits and striking out seven over the first five innings. He started the sixth by plunking Justin Upton with a pitch, then walked Miguel Montero after Upton stole second.
Gonzalez immediately popped out of the dugout on ball four, turning to the bullpen after Lowe's 99th pitch of the night. Rookie Arodys Vizcaino got out of the jam, striking out Ryan Roberts and Lyle Overbay before Chris Young flied out to right-center, just short of the warning track.
``That's obviously not as far as I'd like to go,' said Lowe, who has yet to pitch more than seven innings this season. ``With my track record in the sixth, Fredi didn't want it to snowball. I don't blame him. You've got to earn the right to pitch deep into games.'
Eric O'Flaherty came on in the seventh, facing another mess after Vizcaino walked two straight hitters with one out. This time, the Diamondbacks broke through. Upton drilled a two-out double to the gap in right-center, bringing home both runners to cut Atlanta's lead in half.
But that was it. The Braves turned to their dynamic finishing duo, with Jonny Venters breezing through the eighth on seven pitches and Craig Kimbrel working around a bunt single and a walk for his 38th save in 43 chances. The closer has now gone 29 consecutive appearances without allowing a run, covering more than two months and 29 2-3 innings.
The last team to score against Kimbrel was the New York Mets on June 14.
``The back end of our bullpen did what it always does,' Jones said.
NOTES: LHP Wade Miley will make his first career start for the Diamondbacks on Saturday. The 24-year-old left-hander was called up from Triple-A Reno after Jason Marquis suffered a broken leg when hit by a line drive against the New York Mets last weekend. ... RHP Brandon Beachy (5-2) will get the nod for the Braves, making his first career start vs. the Diamondbacks. ... Braves LF Martin Prado got the night off. Constanza took over in left, with Jason Heyward making his second straight start in right. ... McCann became the 11th catcher in baseball history to hit 20 homers in four consecutive seasons.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved