WASHINGTON -- It took Braves manager Bobby Cox a few days longer than he'd have liked to record the last milestone victory of his illustrious managerial career. In fact, by the time he achieved it, he had forgot that it had been on the horizon.

With a 5-0 win over the Nationals on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park, Cox notched his 2,500th career victory. While focusing more on what it meant to his club's postseason hopes, the veteran skipper simply discarded the lineup card like he had after most of the previous 4,500 games he had managed.

"I didn't even know it until [pitching coach Roger McDowell] told me," Cox said. "I was throwing the cards away and going to the mound. Roger got the card somewhere."

After starting this nine-game road trip with a sweep of the Mets, Braves media relations director Brad Hainje informed Cox he was one win away from the milestone. But in the five days that followed, the Braves were swept in New York and sustained a series-opening loss to the Nationals.

The four-game losing streak dropped Atlanta into second place in the National League Wild Card race. Thus Cox found himself focused much more on the need to compile wins rather than simply gain this milestone victory.

"Brad told me the other day, but I had no clue during the game, that was 2,500," Cox said. "I didn't think I'd ever live that long, let alone win that many."

Atlanta general manager Frank Wren and a number of other employees celebrated the milestone by toasting Cox after the game.

"We just had a sip of champagne, about 20 of us, for winning a ballgame," Cox said with the empty glasses sitting on his desk.

Cox ranks fourth on baseball's all-time managerial wins list, positioned behind Connie Mack (3,731), John McGraw (2,763) and Tony La Russa (2,631). As he heads toward retirement at the end of this season, he seems to be just a few years away from joining Mack and McGraw in Cooperstown.

Cox's first managerial victory occurred on April 10, 1978, when the Braves beat the Padres, 8-7. He notched 2,145 of his wins during his two tenures in Atlanta and 355 from 1982-85 with the Blue Jays.

After leading the Jays to the 1985 American League East title, he served each of the next five seasons as Atlanta's general manager. His current managerial tenure with the Braves started midway through the 1990 season.

"Longevity is hard to come by these days," Braves pitcher Derek Lowe said. "It seems like managers are in and out so fast. [General managers] are in and out the same way, so it's kind of hard to have your roots in one place for a long time. He's no different than players. Whenever you do a milestone thing, those are great. But you don't really enjoy it until the season is over."

It's hard to imagine that anybody will ever match Cox's all-time record of 158 ejections. But the 69-year-old skipper would rather be remembered as the man who guided the Braves to an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles and gave Atlanta a chance to celebrate a World Series championship in 1995.

"It's amazing," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "To realize what the Braves did with those 14 consecutive division titles. It will probably never happen again. He's the big reason for that. We'd like nothing more than to put him back in the playoff atmosphere."