MIAMI (AP)—Playing a weekend series in Florida, the Atlanta Braves are eager to make their big lead in the NL East even bigger.
Chipper Jones hit a three-run homer to help overcome an early deficit Friday night, and the Braves reduced their magic number for clinching the NL East to eight by beating the second-place Marlins 8-1.
“I was proud to see us match their intensity,” Jones said. “We want to win this series, plain and simple.”
Florida outhit the Braves 13-11 but stranded 10 runners, grounded into three double plays and had a runner thrown out at the plate. The Marlins fell 8 1/2 games behind the Braves, who moved closer to their 13th consecutive division title.
“These are big games,” said Marcus Giles, who had three hits and scored twice. “We just can’t get too complacent. We have to continue to play good ball and roll on home.”
The defending World Series champion Marlins dropped 4 1/2 games behind San Francisco in the NL wild-card race.
“We can’t afford to lose too many,” manager Jack McKeon said.
Paul Byrd (8-5), starting on three days’ rest for the first time this season, allowed nine hits but just one run in five innings. He threw 67 pitches — all but 11 for strikes—and pitched around two errors.
“I felt good. I felt strong,” Byrd said. “I didn’t notice any difference between three and four days’ rest.”
Four relievers completed the 13-hitter. It was the first time in Marlins history that they totaled 13 or more hits and scored less than two runs.
“That game could have been a lot different,” Giles said. “Byrd made big pitches in big situations and turned that game around.”
Logan Kensing (0-2), called up last week after spending the season in Class A, allowed four runs in four innings. Kensing started for A.J. Burnett, who has won four consecutive starts but might miss the rest of the season because of elbow inflammation.
“We’re not going to use that as an excuse,” McKeon said. “We’re still in this thing.”
Kensing held the Braves hitless until the fourth, when they scored four times. Giles led off with a single and stole second. Drew walked, and Jones hit his 29th homer to put Atlanta ahead 3-1. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out, and another run scored when the Marlins failed to turn a double play on a grounder by Byrd, who barely beat the throw to first.
“We just needed one time through the lineup to get a good look at the pitcher,” Jones said.
With 88 RBIs, Jones has a chance a chance to reach 100 for the ninth straight season, a feat accomplished only by Sammy Sosa in the NL. Jones had just 34 RBIs at the All-Star break.
Atlanta added three runs in the fifth against Ben Howard, who failed to retire any of the five batters he faced and drew boos from the crowd of 26,084. Johnny Estrada’s bases-loaded single drove in one run, and LaRoche followed with a two-run single.
Byrd pitched around two errors in the second. Mike Lowell reached on a misplay by third baseman Jones, and when center fielder Andruw Jones bobbled Jeff Conine’s single, the Marlins had runners at second and third with no outs.
Florida took a 1-0 lead in the third on singles by Luis Castillo, Paul Lo Duca and Miguel Cabrera. Left fielder Charles Thomas threw out Lo Duca trying to score from second on a two-out single by Conine.
The Marlins are 4-10 against Atlanta and 34-13 against the rest of the NL East. … Andruw Jones’ error was just his third this season. … Byrd improved to 3-2 at Pro Player Stadium with an ERA of 1.91. … Kensing’s ERA fell to 11.57 from 15.00.