Marlins 5, Phillies 4
MIAMI (AP)—Jeff Conine was so thrilled by his home run Tuesday that he pumped his fist, something he said he’s done only one other time in a 12-year career.
His teammates were excited, too. They mobbed Conine at the plate to celebrate the biggest hit in the Florida Marlins’ biggest game this season.
Conine’s three-run homer off Kevin Millwood highlighted a five-run seventh inning, and Florida rallied to beat the fading Philadelphia Phillies 5-4. The victory gave the Marlins a two-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race with five games to go.
“This team is doing it on emotion,” said Conine, a member of the Marlins’ 1997 World Series championship team who was reacquired Aug. 31. “The way we’ve been winning games and having fun, you’ve got to like our chances.”
A shaky start by Dontrelle Willis left the Marlins trailing 3-0, but they rallied to keep from falling into a tie with the Phillies.
“This took a little wind out of their sails,” said Juan Pierre, who reached base three times for Florida. “But the way this season has gone back and forth, I’m not going to say anything. Wednesday is an even bigger game.”
“These guys are professionals,” Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa said. “They won’t quit until they pull the plug on the respirator.”
The Marlins will be tough to catch, with their final five games in Miami. They’ve won 23 of their past 29 home games since July 21, best in the major leagues.
“An outstanding bunch of warriors,” manager Jack McKeon said. “The guys are excited about being in the race. This is the first time for a lot of them.”
Jimmy Rollins’ two-run double in the second put the Phillies ahead until Florida came back. Bowa needed four pitchers to get through the seventh, which included four bases on balls and just three Florida hits.
“The thing that killed us is we walked four guys,” Bowa said.
The Phillies lost for the sixth time in 10 games, and they’ve lost five in a row in Miami.
“We know our backs are up against the wall right now,” Millwood said. “We’ll either come out fighting, or this thing will be over pretty soon.”
Millwood was splendid for six innings, allowing only four baserunners. He retired nine in a row during one stretch.
“The mood of the dugout was that we didn’t think it was going to happen tonight,” Conine said. “That’s how in control Millwood was.”
But the tiring right-hander gave up his first walks of the game to Derrek Lee and Miguel Cabrera to start the seventh. One out later, Conine lined a fastball over the scoreboard to tie the game, and the crowd of 25,311 roared.
“Twenty-five thousand sounded like 50,000,” Conine said. “I hit home plate, and I felt about 200 hands hitting me on top of the helmet and slapping me on the back and pushing me around. My hands are tingling still from all the hand slaps.”
Conine said his only other fist pump following a homer came when he gave the NL a victory in the 1995 All-Star game.
Mike Williams (1-7) replaced Millwood and gave up a single by Alex Gonzalez and a walk to pinch-hitter Brian Banks. Dan Plesac loaded the bases with a walk to Pierre, and Luis Castillo singled up the middle to drive in a run and put Florida ahead.
The Phillies mounted a comeback bid of their own in the eighth when struggling reliever Braden Looper walked the first two batters. They advanced on a sacrifice, and pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee’s RBI groundout advanced Rollins to third as the potential tying run.
Ugueth Urbina pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in six opportunities with Florida. He also had 26 saves for Texas this season.
Conine’s homer hiked his batting average to .214 with three home runs since joining the Marlins on Aug. 31.
“We know he’s a much better hitter than what he did the first couple of weeks here,” McKeon said. “We thought he might be an experienced guy who would give us that extra push over the top.”
Tejera earned his first win since May 28.
Pierre stole second in the third for his 62nd stolen base, tying Castillo’s team record set in 2000. … RHP Rick Helling has allowed one run in 13 1-3 innings since joining the Marlins. … The starting time of Florida’s game Saturday against the New York Mets has been switched from 6:05 p.m. to 1:25 to accommodate television. … Juan Encarnacion was 0-for-19 lifetimeagainst Millwood before he tripled in the second.