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Zimmermann strikes out the side on nine pitches

No longer battling the right foot blister that bothered him last week, the Braves' Derek Lowe is ready to build off a performance that saw him take a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his last start when he takes the hill for Thursday's matchup against the Washington Nationals.

Lowe tossed six shutout innings against the Phillies in that start, surrendering just two hits and a walk to go along with four strikeouts. The first hit Lowe gave up came when Shane Victorino opened the seventh with an opposite-field single.

"D-Lowe, he had the invisi-ball," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said after Friday's game. "Invisi-ball. Yep. You see it in one place, and when you go to swing, it just wasn't there."

This season, Lowe has pitched five or more innings in seven of his eight starts and allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 of his past 13 starts. On the season, the righty is 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA.

The Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann will try to match Lowe's effectiveness. After pitching well enough in his last start to get his second consecutive win, he was hurt once again by a lack of run support.

In seven starts this season, the Nationals have scored only 23 runs for the righty, while he has tossed five innings in all seven of his starts for a 2-4 record and 4.10 ERA.

Zimmermann held the Florida Marlins to two runs on five hits in six innings of work in his last start, while walking two and striking out six for in a no-decision.

The highlight of the game for Zimmermann came in the second inning, when he struck out the side on nine pitches. It was the first time a Major League pitcher had accomplished the feat since Rafael Soriano did it for the Rays against the Angels on Aug. 23, 2010.

Nationals: Gaudin's return to bullpen uncertain
While Chad Gaudin was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, the right-hander's status hasn't changed since he went on the DL April 27 with inflammation in his shoulder. Gaudin hasn't traveled with the team on its current road trip, which ends Thursday in Atlanta.

"He's just got that general wear-and-tear soreness that doesn't appear it's going to be anything extremely significant," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of Gaudin. "But he needs to go pitch some rehab assignments before we see him."

• As Wilson Ramos and Pudge Rodriguez continue to split time behind the plate, Riggleman plans to give the rookie more playing time, and Ramos started his second straight game Wednesday night against the Braves.

"Even though Pudge is playing very well, I feel like to develop Ramos along, I have to play him more than every other day," said Riggleman.

Braves: Heyward to have MRI on shoulder Thursday
While Jason Heyward awoke Wednesday encouraged that he no longer felt numbness in his right hand and forearm, he will still undergo an MRI on Thursday. Heyward began feeling right shoulder discomfort during the final two weeks of Spring Training, yet he still played through the pain.

"It feels like it's loose, like there is space in there when I move it around," Heyward said. "There's a lot of discomfort."

• Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell will return Friday after serving a two-week suspension handed out by Major League Baseball in response to his reaction to heckling fans before an April 23 game in San Francisco. Along with the suspension, McDowell was fined an unspecified amount and required to undergo sensitivity training.

Worth Noting
• While Scott Linebrink had given up just one run in his last five appearances for the Braves, Linebrink surrendered four runs in the 11th inning to the Nationals on Wednesday.

• Brian McCann leads all National League players and ranks third in the Majors with a .500 (13-for-26) batting average with runners in scoring position. In those situations, he has one home run and 16 RBIs.

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