Marlins 5, Braves 4

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MIAMI (AP)—The night started badly for the Florida Marlins, with Brad Penny hurting his elbow warming up and leaving the game trailing by three runs after 24 pitches.

But it ended in jubilation, with the Marlins pouring out of the dugout to celebrate Juan Pierre’s game-winning single in the ninth inning.

By beating the Atlanta Braves 5-4 Friday, the Marlins increased their NL wild-card lead to 1 1/2 games over Philadelphia, which lost 8-4 at Pittsburgh.

The Marlins won their sixth game in a row. They’ve won 12 of their past 14 to climb a season-best 17 above .500.

“It’s quite a roll,” said Braden Looper, who pitched a perfect ninth for the victory. “Hopefully, it’s a team of destiny, because it’s a lot of fun.”

The Marlins overcame a 4-2 deficit in the eighth and the loss of Penny, who gave up three runs before departing in the first inning with a hyperextended pitching elbow.

“I did it in the bullpen,” he said. “I felt it on every pitch.”

Penny, scheduled to make three more starts during the regular season, will undergo an MRI on Saturday.

He was replaced by Rick Helling, who pitched 4 1-3 scoreless innings, retiring 11 in a row during one stretch. Chad Fox, Ugueth Urbina and Looper (6-3) completed a seven-hitter.

Atlanta’s Mike Hampton allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings, but Florida rallied in the eighth against Jaret Wright, with the tying run scoring on a two-out wild pitch.

Then the Marlins won in their final at-bat for the 18th time.

“We never panicked,” Pierre said. “We knew we were going to score some runs.”

With their 82nd victory, the Marlins are assured of the second winning season in the 11-year history of the franchise. The only other time they finished above .500 was in 1997, when they won the World Series.

“What a comeback,” manager Jack McKeon said. “These guys are exciting and fun to be around. They never quit.”

Atlanta fell to 76-6 when leading after seven innings.

“That’s one you’ve got to win,” manager Bobby Cox said.

Alex Gonzalez reached leading off the ninth when a pitch from Ray King (3-3) nicked his left elbow, and Looper followed with the first sacrifice of his career. Pierre then pulled a pitch into the right-field corner as the crowd of 25,622 erupted.

Atlanta’s Andruw Jones hit a two-run homer, his 34th, giving him a career-high 105 RBIs. Teammate Gary Sheffield drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly and a single.

Ivan Rodriguez led off the eighth with a double, Jeff Conine walked and Juan Encarnacion sacrificed. Derrek Lee’s RBI grounder sent Conine to third, and he scored when Wright threw a slider in the dirt that got away from catcher Javy Lopez.

“I just didn’t get it done,” Wright said. “I thought I had the stuff I needed, but it didn’t work out.”

Florida’s Derrek Lee hit his 29th homer, a career-best.

Penny walked Rafael Furcal on four pitches to start the game, then gave up a single to Mark De Rosa and a sacrifice fly by Sheffield. With two out, Jones homered for a 3-0 lead.

Penny gave no indication he was hurt until the next batter, Lopez, fouled off a pitch to make the count 1-2. Penny walked off the mound, caught a throw from his catcher and then tossed his glove aside in frustration. He quickly retrieved the glove and left the field.

Florida scored in the fourth when Juan Encarnacion singled and came home on Miguel Cabrera’s two-out double. Lee homered in the sixth to make it 3-2.

Atlanta’s Matt Franco singled for his 15th pinch-hit this season leading off the eighth. Pinch-runner Jesse Garcia later scored on Sheffield’s two-out single.

Lee drove in a run with a groundout in the eighth.


Braves 2B Marcus Giles was a late scratch with a sore left ankle. … The game was the 150th between the two teams. Atlanta leads the series 83-67. … Marlins 2B Luis Castillo turned 28 Friday. … Oops: With runners at first and second and two out in the fifth, Hampton picked De Rosa off first. … Florida recalled RHP Blaine Neal from Triple-A Albuquerque. … The single in the ninth was Pierre’s 185th hit, tying the team record set by Castillo lastyear.

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