Marlins 6, Phillies 5

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MIAMI (AP)—A rout turned into a thriller when the Florida Marlins nearly blew a big lead against Philadelphia.

Thanks to Chad Fox, the Marlins held on. Now they have their biggest lead of the season in the NL wild-card race.

Philadelphia scored five runs in the eighth before Fox ended the threat with two runners aboard, and the Marlins won 6-5 Wednesday night to edge closer to their first playoff berth since 1997.

Florida leads the Phillies and Houston Astros by three games with four to go.

The Phillies said the game was one they had to win, and they rallied after falling behind 6-0. But Fox struck out Chase Utley to end the eighth, and Ugueth Urbina pitched a perfect ninth.

“We were not going to lose,” Fox said.

“That would have been a tough one to swallow if we had let that get away,” said Florida’s Jeff Conine, who homered for the second game in a row.

The Marlins can clinch a playoff berth as early as Thursday, and they can eliminate Philadelphia by completing a sweep of their three-game series. Brad Penny (13-10) is scheduled to pitch against the Phillies’ Randy Wolf (16-9).

“If I’m in their clubhouse, it’s time to get going,” Fox said. “But they’re not going to get it done here.”

Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal all but conceded the race to the Marlins.

“If we win every game from here on out, we probably still won’t get in,” he said. “It’s theirs to hold on to.”

The Marlins started strong Wednesday, and by the sixth inning they literally had the Phillies ducking out of the way.

Third baseman Placido Polanco scrambled to avoid being beaned by a broken bat on a run-scoring single by Miguel Cabrera.

Juan Encarnacion’s 18th home run put Florida ahead to stay, and Josh Beckett took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning.

Beckett (9-8) threw 122 pitches, allowing six hits and four runs, and sent the Phillies to their fourth consecutive loss.

“Beckett dominated us,” manager Larry Bowa said. “That’s the best stuff we’ve seen all year. He was overpowering.”

The young right-hander’s next start could come in the first game of the playoffs Tuesday at San Francisco.

“We haven’t opened the champagne yet,” Beckett said. “I just want to be in one of those celebrations. Hopefully everything will work out.”

The Marlins won for the 13th time in their past 15 home games, and they beat Brett Myers (14-9) for the fourth time this season.

But Philadelphia made it harrowing for Florida. The Phils’ eighth-inning rally began with consecutive singles by Utley, pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee and Marlon Byrd. Polanco’s two-run double finished Beckett.

Michael Tejera gave up a two-run single to Bobby Abreu and walked Jim Thome. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch by Fox, and Conine made a running catch of Lieberthal’s sacrifice fly in deep left to make it 6-5.

Pat Burrell flied out and Jimmy Rollins walked before Fox struck out Utley.

“It got a little scary at the end,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “I didn’t like that.”

Urbina, who has supplanted struggling Braden Looper as the Marlins’ closer, earned his fifth save in seven opportunities with Florida. He also had 26 saves in the American League this season.

Florida led 2-0 early, then added four runs in the sixth. Ivan Rodriguez singled and scored on Derrek Lee’s triple, setting the stage for one of the strangest hits this season.

Cabrera broke his bat bouncing a grounder to third, and the barrel flew toward a startled Polanco. As he moved to his right to avoid the bat, the ball rolled past to his left and Lee scored.

“The barrel of that bat is coming right at his head,” Bowa said. “It’s a reflex action. He stays in there and it splits his head open. Nothing you can do about it.”

Myers departed, and Carlos Silva retired Encarnacion, then gave up a homer to Conine to make the score 6-0.

Conine hit a three-run homer to spark Florida’s comeback victory Tuesday. This time he earned a curtain call from the crowd of 28,520—the first of his career, and the Marlins’ first this season.

“I’m not a showy guy, but the guys pushed me out there,” Conine said.

He’s 7-for-17 with three homers in five games against the Phils since joining Florida in a trade Aug. 31.

The 23-year-old Myers, making his final start of the season, was bidding to become the youngest Phillies pitcher to win 15 games since Curt Simmons in1950. Instead he gave up five runs and seven hits in five-plus innings.

Notes

Conine improved to 5-for-7 lifetime against Myers. … Myers finished with a 7.78 ERA this season against Florida in four starts, all losses. … The Phillies dropped to 6-12 against Florida. … The Marlins have committed twoerrors in their past 16 games.

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