Expos 8, Marlins 5

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MIAMI (AP)—Paul Lo Duca was poised to be the star in his Florida Marlins debut until Terrmel Sledge stepped up and spoiled the night.

Sledge hit his first career grand slam after Lo Duca hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat for Florida to lead the Montreal Expos to an 8-5 victory on Saturday night.

Lo Duca, acquired with two teammates from the Dodgers on Friday, joined the Marlins in their dugout in the fifth inning and entered the game in the sixth as a pinch-hitter. He homered to put Florida ahead 5-4 and received a loud ovation from the fans. Lo Duca stayed in the game as the Marlins catcher and finished 1-for-2, with a fly out to center in the eighth.

“That was pretty awesome,” Lo Duca said. “It’s one of the best feelings I’ve had as a player. I said earlier that I’m going to play my butt off here, and we’re going to win some games. This is too talented of a team not to win.”

Lo Duca endured a long day. He was up before 5 a.m. and took a cross-country flight that featured a 90-minute delay. The plane landed in Miami at 6:30 p.m., about the time the game was starting. He and the other new Marlins—outfielder Juan Encarnacion and reliever Guillermo Mota—hustled to get to the stadium, were in the dugout by the fifth inning and were warmly greeted by teammates, coaches, and manager Jack McKeon.

“I didn’t want to leave L.A., but that was a warm reception here,” Lo Duca said. “It was a long day, a long flight. I wanted to be in the (starting) lineup, but we couldn’t get here on time.”

In the seventh, the Expos loaded the bases against relievers Matt Perisho and Josias Manzanillo (3-3). Sledge hit Manzanillo’s first pitch over the fence in right to give the Expos an 8-5 lead. Sledge ended an 0-for-21 slump with a single in the fourth.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time for me or the team,” Sledge said. “I took a good swing at it. It put a big dent in the Marlins.”

Montreal won its fifth straight over Florida, which has lost two straight after sweeping a four-game series from the Phillies. It’s almost a reversal of fortune for the Marlins, who are 11-1 this year against Philadelphia.

“Maybe they can start wearing the Phillies’ uniforms,” Florida starter A.J. Burnett said.

The Expos might be struggling against everyone else, but they find themselves one win away from making it two series sweeps within a week against the Marlins.

“We’re getting good pitching,” manager Frank Robinson said. “We’re getting timely hitting. We’re scoring some runs. Against the Marlins, that’s something we hadn’t done in the past, especially on the road. Now we’re doing it. The way they used to do us.”

John Patterson pitched five innings for Montreal, allowing six hits and three runs—two earned.

Rocky Biddle (3-5) pitched one inning for the Expos. Chad Cordero relieved in the ninth with runners on first and second and no outs. He got Mike Lowell to ground into a double play and struck out Miguel Cabrera for his 11th save.

The Expos traded shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the Red Sox earlier in the day. Alex Gonzalez, acquired by the Expos from the Cubs in the four-team trade, will join the team on Tuesday in St. Louis.

Lo Duca, pinch-hitting for Matt Treanor in the sixth, homered off Biddle. The shot came after Patterson walked Alex Gonzalez.

Burnett pitched six innings and allowed seven hits and four runs—three earned.

The Marlins, 9-0 losers on Friday, took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Luis Castillo walked, Lowell followed with a single, and Jeff Conine drove them in with a two-out double to right.

The Expos scored a run in the third on Brad Wilkerson’s RBI single.

Montreal scored three times in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead.

Wilkerson drew a one-out walk, and Endy Chavez singled. Jose Vidro lined a single to right that went through the legs of Miguel Cabrera and rolled to the wall for a two-base error, allowing Wilkerson and Chavez to score. Vidro scored on Tony Batista’s sacrifice fly.

Florida pulled to 4-3 in the fifth, scoring an unearned run on Cabrera’s two-out double. It scored Castillo, who reached on Batista’s fielding error at third.


Lo Duca is the sixth All-Star catcher to play for Florida, following Benito Santiago, Charles Johnson, Darren Daulton, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. … Patterson, who missed nearly three months because of a groin strain, hasn’t won since April 10. … Lo Duca’s homer was his first as a pinch-hitter. … Treanor was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque after the game. … Encarnacion pinch-hit in the eighth and grounded out.

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