Marlins 5, Expos 2

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MIAMI (AP)—The Florida Marlins scored one run on a bunt, another on a wild pitch and another on a popout to the second baseman. They’ve won that way all year, which is why they’re alone atop the NL wild-card race.

Brad Penny combined with two relievers on a three-hitter Monday, and the Marlins completed their first four-game series sweep since May 1996 by beating the Montreal Expos 5-2.

Florida moved a game ahead of Philadelphia, which lost to Boston 13-9. The Marlins have won 11 of their last 12 against NL East teams, including seven in a row dating to July 25.

“We’re excited,” Penny said. “But we’ve got a lot of games to play. We’ve got to play every game like it’s the last day.”

The Expos fell four games back in the wild-card standings and are 4-18 away from home since the All-Star break.

“We’ve got the noose around our neck,” hitting coach Tom McCraw said. “You either take the thing off, or you hang yourself.”

McCraw was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the eighth, giving the Expos three ejections in two games.

Jeff Conine, playing for Florida for the first time since the 1997 World Series, started a double play in left field and sent Juan Pierre home on an RBI popout that second baseman Henry Mateo caught in short right field.

“You can see why this team is where it is right now,” said Conine, acquired from Baltimore in a trade late Sunday. “They can create absolute havoc on the basepaths.”

Ivan Rodriguez capped a seventh-inning comeback with a go-ahead single. Penny (12-10) improved to 1-6 in day games this season, allowing three hits and two runs—both on homers—in seven innings.

Braden Looper pitched a perfect ninth for his 26th save in 30 chances. Florida improved to 60-1 when it leads after seven innings.

“Everything was perfect today,” Looper said. “This is fun. It’s unbelievable. It’s hard to put into words.”

Vladimir Guerrero and Brad Wilkerson hit solo homers for the Expos, who have lost 11 of their last 13 against the Marlins. Manager Frank Robinson admitted he’s frustrated.

“Today we got outscored. We got outplayed. We got outpitched. We got outhit. We got outhustled. We got outexecuted,” Robinson said.

The Expos scored 10 runs and struck out 41 times as they were swept in a four-game series for the first time since August 2000.

“Those guys are fighting for the same thing we are,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “Our guys are just digging a little deeper right now.”

Florida trailed 2-1 when pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth led off the seventh with a single against Tomo Ohka (8-11). After pinch-runner Gerald Williams stole second, Pierre reached on a bunt single—his second of the game and 24th this season—to put runners at the corners.

Mike Mordecai caught the defense on the move and tied it with an RBI bunt single to first baseman Wil Cordero.

“That’s what makes this club so interesting,” McKeon said. “That’s how we win.”

Rodriguez followed with a run-scoring single off Luis Ayala to give Florida the lead.

Pierre’s speed and hustle put Florida ahead in the first. He led off with a bunt single and took third on a hit-and-run single by Mordecai, then scored with a headfirst slide after Conine popped out.

“You’ve got to know who’s on third base and place them well,” Conine joked. The sacrifice fly was his 13th, most in the majors.

Conine also robbed Endy Chavez of a hit in the fifth with a sliding catch in left field, then made a quick throw that helped double Brian Schneider off first.

Florida pinch-hitter Lenny Harris made it 4-2 with an RBI single in the eighth, and another run scored on a wild pitch.

Penny retired the first nine batters before Wilkerson hit his 18th homer leading off the fourth. Two outs later, Guerrero hit his fifth homer in sixgames and 23rd this year to put Montreal ahead 2-1.

Notes

Montreal 2B Jose Vidro, bothered by a sore knee, was held out at his request. … Florida 2B Luis Castillo, who has a 15-game hitting streak, was given the day off. … The Expos finished 1-9 in Miami this year. … The Marlins have won seven consecutive home games. … Florida’s Miguel Cabrera snapped an 0-for-23 slump with a double in the second. … The Marlins’ lastfour-game sweep came against Colorado on May 9-12, 1996.

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