Braves 9, Marlins 6

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ATLANTA (AP)—J.D. Drew got all he could from each at-bat, and when he made an out, good things still happened.

He homered twice and Sam McConnell earned his first major league win to lead the Atlanta Braves past the Florida Marlins 9-6 on Wednesday night.

In five trips to the plate, Drew drove in runs during four of them. He also got RBIs on a forceout and a sacrifice fly.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” Drew said. “You do what you can, whether it’s walking, getting a sacrifice fly, broken-bat RBI, staying out of a double play, things like that.

“And then when you do get a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it, and hopefully good things happen.”

It was the seventh career two-homer game for Drew—his first since Oct. 3, 2001—and he tied a career high with five RBIs for the Braves, who moved within 3 1/2 games of first in the NL East. The Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies are tied for the top spot.

The game was delayed by rain for 75 minutes in the second inning, and rain fell throughout most of the rest of it. On Tuesday night, the teams waited out a 3 1/2 -hour delay before the start, and the game ended at 1:24 a.m. More showers are in the forecast for the series finale Thursday.

“In my opinion, the game should never have started,” Florida starter A.J. Burnett said. “It’s not like the rain just snuck up on us. We knew it was coming.”

McConnell (1-0) allowed one run on one hit through 3 1-3 innings. He was called up from Triple-A Richmond on June 25 and made his debut that night against Baltimore. In his two previous outings, he compiled a 13.50 ERA.

After the game, he got the lineup card as a souvenir, and he also had a box of game balls waiting at his locker.

“It’s very special,” said the big left-hander, who grew up a Braves fan in Ohio. “It’s just kind of happened so fast. I’m loving every second of it.”

Kevin Gryboski relieved McConnell with two on in the seventh and allowed a bloop single by Mike Redmond to make it 7-6, but pinch-hitter Lenny Harris flied to left to end the threat.

John Smoltz pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 15 chances.

“The guy that saved us was McConnell,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “We’re finally getting the chance to see him. His stock is going up by the second.”

Mike Lowell and Miguel Cabrera both homered for the Marlins, who lost for the fifth time in seven games.

“That’s life,” Lowell said. “We were swinging the bats well, but they were swinging them better.”

Neither starting pitcher came back after the delay, which probably was a good thing for Burnett. He gave up three runs on five hits in only one inning.

His counterpart, Paul Byrd, was only slightly better. He was charged with two runs on three hits in two innings, then turned a 3-2 lead over to Travis Smith.

Smith allowed five straight hits during one stretch in the third— including a two-run homer to Cabrera—and let Florida go ahead 5-3. But Darren Oliver (2-3), who took over for Burnett, gave it right back in the bottom half.

Estrada doubled and moved to third on a single by Julio Franco. A groundout by Andruw Jones brought in Estrada, and Franco scored on the first career triple by rookie Charles Thomas.

Finally, pinch-hitter Mike Hessman singled in Thomas for a 6-5 lead.

“We had trouble getting them out,” Florida manager Jack McKeon said. “Idon’t believe there’s a mental block for us. We’re still in first place.”

Notes

Atlanta 1B Adam LaRoche, on the 15-day disabled list with a separated shoulder, went 2-for-4 with a homer during a rehab assignment Wednesday night with Triple-A Richmond. He might return to the Braves on Friday. … Lowell andCabrera hit back-to-back homers in the Marlins’ 5-4 victory Tuesday night.

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