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Baseball

NL: Marlins thrill a packed house

By Wire services
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

MIAMI - The Marlins drew their biggest crowd in more than two years and quickly gave the fans plenty to cheer about.

Miguel Cabrera capped a six-run first with a three-run homer, and the wild-card leaders won their seventh consecutive game by beating Atlanta 8-3 Saturday night.

With Florida in a playoff race in September for the first time since 1997, the game attracted 40,414, the Marlins' most since July 13, 2001, against the Yankees.

"They should come out every night," winning pitcher Dontrelle Willis said. "I think they notice we're playing good ball. I think they appreciate us, and we appreciate them."

Florida moved 21/2 games ahead of the Phillies in the wild-card standings.

"There's pressure on them," Cabrera said. "If we keep playing like this, we can get there."

The Marlins' winning streak is their longest since Aug. 6-13, 1999, and they're 18 games above .500 for the first time in six years.

East leader Atlanta has lost three in a row and eight of 13.

"We've been in this situation before," said Javy Lopez, who hit his 40th home run. "We know how to get out of it. Tomorrow is a new day. You'll see a different team out there."

Lopez's homer was his 39th as a catcher, leaving him two shy of the major-league record set by the Mets' Todd Hundley in 1996. Johnny Bench hit 45 homers for Cincinnati in 1970, but 38 came while he was in games as a catcher.

Atlanta leads Florida by 81/2 in the East.

Russ Ortiz, trying to become the league's first 20-game winner, instead allowed the first five batters to score. Juan Encarnacion hit a two-run single in the first, and the stadium got loud when Cabrera's 10th homer made it 6-0.

"A great, great, great crowd," manager Jack McKeon said. "When we get big crowds like that, we seem to play good. It seems to energize us."

It had been exactly one year since the Marlins scored six in the first. They did it then against another Braves pitcher, Greg Maddux.

Ortiz allowed six hits and seven runs in three innings, his shortest outing this season. He's 2-2 with an ERA of 7.16 over his past six starts.

"I could care less about 20 wins," Ortiz said. "I'm worried about winning a game."

Cabrera went 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs. He's batting .419 against the Braves this season (13-for-31) with four home runs and 10 RBIs.

ASTROS 2, CARDINALS 0: Jeff Bagwell hit his 35th homer and Roy Oswalt won his second straight game since coming off the disabled list for host Houston.

The Astros preserved their one-game lead in the Central over the Cubs. St. Louis lost for the fourth time in five games and dropped 41/2 back.

Oswalt came off the disabled list Sept. 8 and won his first start at Milwaukee. He was even sharper against the Cardinals, allowing four hits over seven innings to win a duel with Matt Morris.

Octavio Dotel pitched a perfect eighth in his first appearance since straining his left gluteus Sept. 6. Billy Wagner finished the five-hitter for his 42nd save in 45 chances and 20th in a row.

BREWERS 5, GIANTS 4: Richie Sexson hit two two-run homers and visiting Milwaukee snapped a seven-game losing streak despite Barry Bonds' 654th homer.

Bonds hit the first pitch from Doug Davis an estimated 482 feet to spark a four-run eighth, his 41st homer of the season and 27th career splash hit into McCovey Cove. Bonds is six home runs shy of tying his godfather, Willie Mays, for third on the career list.

PIRATES 5, PHILLIES 3: Abraham Nunez's two-run double in the second helped host Pittsburgh open a five-run lead, and it held on to damage Philadelphia's wild-card chances. With starter Josh Fogg pitching effectively for most of his seven innings, the Pirates beat the Phillies for the second straight night to drop them 21/2 behind wild-card leader Florida.

CUBS 9, REDS 6: Aramis Ramirez singled in the go-ahead run and Eric Karros had four RBIs as host Chicago overcame a blown lead for the second straight game. Mark Grudzielanek drove in two for the Cubs.

METS 5, EXPOS 4: Steve Trachsel tied a career high with his 15th win and Daniel Garcia homered and had three RBIs as visiting New York ended a season-high eight-game losing streak.


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