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Marlins Work Way Back to Top

They defeat the Braves, 6-5, in 11 innings to regain the wild-card lead by half a game over the Phillies.

September 21, 2003|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — The Florida Marlins regained the National League wild-card lead, thanks to a rookie who started the season at double-A Carolina.

Miguel Cabrera homered in the 11th inning and Florida rebounded after blowing a four-run lead to beat the Atlanta Braves, 6-5, Saturday night.

The Marlins pulled a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost, 2-0, to the Cincinnati Reds.

"Of course we knew they lost," Florida's Juan Pierre said. "We knew we had to win regardless. Every game counts right now."

Cabrera lined a pitch from Will Cunnane (2-2) into the seats in left leading off the 11th. Afterward, Cabrera didn't speak with reporters.

The Braves tied it with two runs in the ninth off closer Braden Looper. Javy Lopez cut it to 5-4 with his 42nd home run of the season -- and 41st as a catcher. That matched the major league record for catchers set by Todd Hundley of the New York Mets in 1996.

"Finally, I got it out of the way," Lopez said. "I can go out there and relax. To tie the record is what you try to do, now I'm just going to let it happen. If it doesn't happen, at least I have a place in history."

After the homer by Lopez, Looper walked Vinny Castilla, who was replaced by pinch-runner Jesse Garcia, and pinch-hitter Julio Franco singled to move Garcia to third.

Mark DeRosa lined a single to left to bring in Garcia with the tying run. It was Looper's sixth blown save in 34 chances, and he has blown three saves in his last five appearances against the Braves.

Gary Sheffield singled leading off the 10th, the 2,000th hit of his career, and Atlanta loaded the bases twice. But Michael Tejera retired Rafael Furcal on a popup and pinch-hitter Johnny Estrada flied out against Rick Helling (1-0).

"We were winning the whole game, it would have been a one-game swing if we'd lost," Helling said. "That's obvious, but the mental side of it, too, wouldn't have been too good."

Atlanta closer John Smoltz pitched for the first time since Aug. 23, retiring Pierre on a groundout in the ninth inning before giving way to Ray King. Smoltz was activated from the disabled list before the game after missing nearly a month with tendinitis in his right elbow.

"I needed to get out there and accomplish a lot of things," Smoltz said. "One was just to walk through that gate. It felt awkward, but actually things slowed down for me out there. I probably didn't go at it like I will."

The Braves set a franchise record by using nine pitchers, and matched a franchise mark by using 26 players.

Marcus Giles became the sixth Atlanta player to reach 20 home runs this season, helping the Braves tie the league record.

The Milwaukee Braves set the mark in 1965.

Brad Penny pitched five-hit ball for seven innings and tied a career high with three runs batted in for the Marlins before the bullpen blew the lead.

Atlanta closed to 5-3 in the eighth on Sheffield's two-run homer off Ugueth Urbina.

Penny left his previous start -- also against Atlanta -- with a hyperextended elbow after getting two out in the first inning.

He allowed three runs on two hits in that game, which the Marlins won, 5-4.

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