Lowe, Braves top Nationals

Atlanta Braves starter Derek Lowe has been making adjustments to his pitching form during the off-season. It paid off Monday night, as Lowe allowed only one baserunner and only ground balls.

VIERA, Fla. --- Derek Lowe spent the winter overhauling his mechanics and is pleased with his progress.


A few more outings like Monday night's, and Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox won't care how many tweaks Lowe makes.

Lowe, Cox's choice to pitch opening day (April 5), worked four hitless innings and the Braves beat the winless Washington Nationals 5-2 on Monday night.

"(Lowe) got all ground balls and had six punchouts, so he had quite a night," Cox said. "He was outstanding. That should be one of the best performances of any spring."

Washington is 0-11, the majors' only winless team this spring.

"We played pretty good," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "We're just not winning ball games."

Coming off a one-inning stint March 10 in which he was troubled by a blister on his right foot -- and gave up three runs and five hits -- Lowe allowed only one baserunner. Washington's Roger Bernadina reached in the second when first baseman Eric Hinske dropped shortstop Yunel Escobar's throw.

Right-hander Lowe credited his ability to master the mental aspects of his new delivery, something he has had trouble doing in the past when the results weren't indicative of how hard he was working.

"Hopefully when you do that, you work a little faster because the wheels aren't spinning between each pitch from analyzing," Lowe said. "You just get the ball, get back up and throw it. Being a groundball pitcher, that's what you want."

He certainly got the desired results against the punchless Nationals. He (1-0) struck out six and was in command all the way in his deepest outing of the spring.

"I'm able to throw it through the target," said Lowe, who is coming off a disappointing 2009 season in which he was 15-10 but posted a 4.67 ERA, his highest in five years. "If you can throw it through the target, stay on line, you're going to be able to throw strikes -- and that's something I was really struggling with (last year)."

Martin Prado and Joe Thurston homered for the Braves. Prado is hitting .385 this spring and Thurston, battling Brooks Conrad for the backup infielder job, homered for a second straight day. Conrad, who made two nice defensive plays Monday, is batting .348.



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