Marlins 6, Padres 3

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MIAMI (AP)—Florida’s Juan Pierre worked center field to perfection Saturday night.

He drove in two runs with a triple off the wall in center and saved two runs with a running catch in the deepest part of the park as the Marlins beat the San Diego Padres 6-3.

Pierre’s seventh-inning triple put Florida ahead for good, giving the Marlins their fourth win in five games, and took rookie Dontrelle Willis off the hook for the loss.

“He’s been one of the unsung heroes for the entire season,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “Everybody just thinks of him as a base stealer, but he plays (great) defense and he’s the catalyst for our offense.

“When he gets on, the engine starts. The kid’s a workaholic. He’s pure gold. He’s a super kid, he works and I just love him.”

Trailing 3-1, Juan Encarnacion led off the seventh with a double and later scored on Miguel Cabrera’s single—a hit that ended starter Brian Lawrence’s night.

Cabrera moved to second on a groundout, and pinch-hitter Brian Banks walked with two outs to set the table for Pierre.

The speedy outfielder drove a pitch from Jay Witasick (3-3) to deep center for his fifth triple, easily scoring Cabrera and Banks. Pierre then scored on Luis Castillo’s single up the middle.

“Off the bat, I sure wanted the inside-the-parker,” said Pierre, who has three career home runs but none this season. “Hopefully I’ll get one this year. I was just about to turn on the jets when I saw the stop sign.”

Pierre’s defense was just as big a factor in the game.

With runners on first and second and two outs in the sixth, Pierre tracked down Ramon Vazquez’s fly ball to the deepest part of Pro Player Stadium—434 feet from home plate in left-center—and kept San Diego from building on its two-run lead.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever hit a ball 420 feet and it’s an out,” Vazquez said.

Added Padres manager Bruce Bochy, whose club has lost eight of 11: “Vazquez smoked that ball. If that ball gets over his head, obviously it’s a different game. That was a very good defensive play on their part.”

Chad Fox (2-0) allowed two hits in the seventh, Ugueth Urbina pitched a scoreless eighth and Braden Looper loaded the bases in the ninth before striking out Rondell White for his 24th save in 28 chances.

Willis rebounded from the worst start of his promising career by giving up seven hits and three runs in six innings. He allowed seven runs on six hits and three walks in two innings against Los Angeles on Monday. The D-Train is now 2-2 with a 6.09 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break.

Willis has lasted six innings only four times in his past eight starts, and since the All-Star break his ERA has climbed from 2.08 to 3.18.

With an 11-3 record, Willis remains one of this season’s most captivating stories and the front-runner for rookie of the year.

More than 26,000 were in attendance for his start Saturday. They were treated to the team’s ninth come-from-behind win when trailing after six innings. The Padres were 34-5 when leading after six innings.

The Marlins gave Willis an early lead when Pierre singled in the first, stole second and scored from third on Mike Lowell’s single to right.

Willis gave up an RBI triple in the third to Lou Merloni, filling in for the injured Sean Burroughs. Then Gary Bennett hit his second home run of the season in the fourth, a two-run shot with Miguel Ojeda aboard to give the Padres a 3-1 lead.

“Dontrelle pitched pretty good,” McKeon said. “He made one bad pitch. Theone home run was costly, but overall he pitched well.”

Notes

The Padres have been outscored 30-8 in the last four games. … San Diego 2B Mark Loretta’s hitting streak ended at 13 games. … Florida’s Cabrera extended his hitting streak to eight games. … Padres OF Mark Kotsay was out of the starting lineup Saturday, a day after jarring his lower back while making a diving catch. … San Diego’s bullpen has allowed 10 earned in thelast 8 1/3 innings after not giving up any in the previous 11 2/3 innings.

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