ATLANTA -- Ricky Nolasco knew he was stacking up strikeouts. He didn't realize he was closing in on a major league record.
"Something kind of weird about me is that, ever since high school, I keep a mental tally in my head of how many I have every single game," he said. "I knew how many I had and what was going on, but I wasn't aware of any record."
Nolasco's nine consecutive strikeouts in a game were one short of the big league mark set by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver for the New York Mets on April 22, 1970, against San Diego.
Seaver struck out 19 in that game at Shea Stadium, including his final 10 batters in a 2-1 victory.
Nolasco's 16 strikeouts were the most in the majors since Johan Santana fanned 17 for Minnesota against Texas on Aug. 19, 2007, according to STATS LLC.
"I'm not much of a history person," Nolasco said, "but if my kids come across it some day, that would make me proud."
Trying to make a late push for the playoffs, the Braves rallied for two runs in the ninth inning and had a chance to win after loading the bases with two outs. But Atlanta lost its second straight when Matt Diaz got hung up between third and home following a low pitch that squirted away from catcher Ronny Paulino.
With Martin Prado batting, Diaz initially broke for the plate, hesitated twice, then tried to scamper back to third. Paulino retrieved the ball and made a strong throw to nail Diaz, who slammed his hand on the bag in frustration.
"I pride myself on making decisions, not always the right ones, but I'm decisive," Diaz said. "Right there, I hesitated and it cost us big. I've never felt this bad about a play. It's a sinking feeling knowing you cost these guys."
Atlanta fell four games behind Colorado for the NL wild card with four to play. The Rockies beat Milwaukee 10-6.
Nolasco's streak of nine strikeouts ended with a leadoff double by Adam LaRoche in the sixth.
"He was making pitches when he needed to and he was obviously getting ahead in the count and just burying the slider," LaRoche said. "For some reason tonight, it was really hard to pick up, especially with two strikes."
Nolasco fanned 12 through five innings, retiring 14 of his first 15 batters. He had 15 strikeouts through seven, giving him a shot at the major league record of 20 for a nine-inning game.
That mark was set by Roger Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood. Randy Johnson also struck out 20 in the first nine innings of an 11-inning game for Arizona on May 8, 2001.
Nolasco (13-9), who struck out 14 of his first 19 batters, set a Marlins record with No. 15 when Diaz fanned for the final out of the seventh. His final strikeout came against rookie Brooks Conrad for the first out of the eighth.
A.J. Burnett held the previous Florida record of 14 strikeouts, which he accomplished twice.
Nolasco threw 83 strikes. He allowed four hits, two runs -- none earned -- and two walks. He has won four of his last six starts.
Nolasco was 1-3 with a 7.44 ERA with 10 home runs allowed in his previous six starts against the Braves. After winning 15 games last season, the right-hander got off to a rough start this year and was sent to the minors for a two-week stretch that ended June 7.
"I had something to prove to these guys," Nolasco said, "because that's a team, throughout my career, that's hit me pretty well."
Ross Gload added a two-run homer off Vazquez in the fifth.
Vazquez was 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA in his previous four starts, but he has been unable to solve Florida. No team had beaten the right-hander more than once this season, but the Marlins earned their third victory against him. Vazquez allowed eight hits, five runs -- three earned -- with nine strikeouts in six innings.
Nolasco's 16 strikeouts tied the most by a pitcher against the Braves since franchise relocated to Atlanta in 1966. The last pitcher to do it was Sid Fernandez for the Mets on July 14, 1989.
- Florida RHP Rick VandenHurk will start Friday against Philadelphia instead of LHP Sean West.
- Marlins 1B Nick Johnson (flu) took batting practice and could be ready this weekend.
- Braves LF Garret Anderson needs one hit to reach 2,500. He ranks seventh among active players.