ATLANTA (AP)—Mike Mordecai is about the last guy anyone would expect to hit a game-winning homer.
The weak-hitting Florida infielder homered for the first time in nearly two years, a 12th-inning drive that gave the Marlins a 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
The Marlins bounced back after closer Braden Looper squandered a three-run lead in the ninth.
“I probably don’t have as much sock as I used to,” quipped Mordecai, a former Braves player who has never hit more than five homers in a season. “I run them all out.”
Mordecai, batting just .192, entered as a pinch-runner in the 10th and came through at the plate two innings later. He hit a 3-1 fastball off Trey Hodges (3-1) that barely cleared the left-field wall.
“If it had been anywhere else, I was taking the pitch,” Mordecai said. “I got it right where I was looking.”
It was Mordecai’s first homer since Aug. 8, 2001, when he played for Montreal. Hodges was certainly aware of that number when he fell behind in the count.
“I was trying to get it over the plate and take my chances with him,” Hodges said. “Obviously, the likelihood of the guys hitting behind him (hitting a homer) was a little higher. But he’s a major league hitter. He did with it what he should have done.”
Mark Redman allowed four hits in 7 2-3 innings, another strong start by a Florida starter, but Looper couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead in the ninth.
When Julio Franco lofted a soft liner to right, Encarnacion attempted to make a diving catch instead of playing it safe. The ball skipped under his glove and all the way to the wall for a two-run triple.
“I didn’t care if he dove or not,” Franco said, “as long as he didn’t catch it.”
Pinch-hitter Robert Fick tied the game at 4 by lining a one-out single past the drawn-in infield.
“This team is going to battle to the end,” Franco said. “We had an opportunity to win. We didn’t, but we did what we’re supposed to. They beat us playing. It’s not like we gave up.”
Redman and the rest of the Florida starters are on a roll, allowing no more than one run in five of their last six appearances. The lone exception was rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis against the Chicago Cubs after a rain delay last weekend.
Nate Bump (3-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.
Despite the loss, the Braves maintained the best record in the major leagues (66-34). The Marlins have gotten themselves into the thick of the NL wild-card race with a 34-19 mark since May 23, tied with Atlanta for the best record in the majors during that span.
Mike Hampton retired the first nine Florida hitters, but the Marlins started the fourth with four straight hits. Ivan Rodriguez had an RBI single and Encarnacion made it 2-0 by grounding into a forceout with the bases loaded.
After a walk reloaded the bases, Hampton escaped further trouble by getting Miguel Cabrera to hit into a double play.
Alex Gonzalez made it 3-0 with an RBI double in the seventh. He moved to third on a sacrifice by Redman, but wound up getting tagged out by Hampton after attempting to score on a pitch to the backstop. The ball ricocheted back to Lopez, who wheeled and threw to the pitcher covering home.
Still, the Marlins knocked out Hampton in the eighth with three straight hits, including a run-scoring single by Mike Lowell. The Braves starter gave up 11 hits.
The Braves finally broke through in the bottom half, taking advantage of Redman’s wildness. He retired the first two hitters, then walked Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles before Gary Sheffield lined a single to right to end the shutout.
Redman barely escaped a similar predicament in the fifth. With two outs, he walked Lopez and Franco before giving up a long drive by Vinny Castilla. JuanPierre made a catch leaping against the center-field wall to end the inning.
Hampton got no decision after winning his last three starts. … Redman has given up just one run in his last two starts, covering 14 2-3 innings. … Looper blew his fourth save in 21 chances. … Florida’s Luis Castillo followed up a four-hit game in Montreal with three hits against the Braves. .. A star-studded night at Turner Field: country singer Trisha Yearwood sang the national anthem, actor Kevin Costner stopped by the broadcast booth and NASCARracer Robby Gordon threw out the first pitch.