ATLANTA — Chipper Jones had bad news for Derek Lowe after the pitcher hit his first career homer.
“He has got a few more to go before he catches me,” Jones said with a laugh.
Two milestone home runs – Jones’ 450th and Lowe’s first – gave Atlanta the early lead and Lowe combined with three relievers on a three-hitter as the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 on Wednesday night.
Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 41st save, setting a major league rookie record.
Ian Desmond’s singles in the first and third innings were the only hits allowed by Lowe (9-12) until Michael Morse led off the seventh with a homer.
Lowe said his first homer “was fun” but he was more excited about his work on the mound.
“I take the pitching first, obviously,” Lowe said after giving up one run, three hits and two walks in six-plus innings. He has had a rocky season but said “the last three (starts) have been better.”
The Braves remain 81/2 games ahead of St. Louis in the NL wild-card race.
John Lannan (8-11) gave up seven hits and three runs, two earned, in seven innings as his streak of five straight wins over the Braves ended.
“He kept us in the ballgame,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “That’s all you can ask of a starter.”
Lowe, 38, lined a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left field in the third inning for his first homer in his 405th career at-bat.
The Braves said the Elias Sports Bureau reported Lowe is only the third pitcher since 1900 to hit his first career homer at 38 or older. Randy Johnson was 40 when he hit his first homer in 2003. Preacher Roe was 38 when he hit his first homer in 1953.
Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters both pitched one scoreless inning before Kimbrel took over in the ninth.
Kimbrel broke a tie with Neftali Feliz of Texas, who had 40 saves as a rookie last season.
“It’s kind of cool to be able to do it at home,” Kimbrel said.