Marlins 5, Expos 2

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MONTREAL (AP)—Brad Wilkerson and the Montreal Expos hope their long-suffering fans will give them a proper sendoff rather than misbehave.

Jeff Conine homered and Mike Lowell drove in two runs to lead the Florida Marlins over Montreal 5-2 on Tuesday night in what might prove to be the Expos’ second-to-last home game.

A crowd of 5,416 was on hand, likely the last tiny baseball crowd at the stadium. The Expos are all but certain to be relocated for 2005 and about 20,000 to 25,000 fans are expected to attend the team’s final home game of the season—and probably ever—in Montreal on Wednesday.

“It’s going to take extra security for some fans that are unhappy,” Wilkerson said. “Let’s see what happens. I just want to get out of here safe. If they do announce something, (Wednesday) is going to be interesting. It’s safety first and I hope some stupid person doesn’t ruin it tomorrow.

“It’s unfortunate that a change has to be made. I don’t know what to expect.”

A city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday night that Washington has been notified by Major League Baseball of its plan to announce Wednesday that the national pastime will return to the nation’s capital for the first time in 33 years.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Expos catcher and player representative Brian Schneider said when told of the report following the game. “I’m trying to worry about the game. It gets old and you don’t know what to believe. I’m going to wait and see what happens. Obviously, security is going to have to be stepped up.”

Ismael Valdez (14-8) held the Expos to one hit—Juan Rivera’s double in the second—through five scoreless innings before leaving after allowing Rivera’s two-run homer with two outs in the sixth.

Armando Benitez set a Marlins record with his 46th save. It was the second save in as many nights for Benitez, who tied the previous record set by Bryan Harvey in 1993 and tied by Antonio Alfonseca in 2000 by closing out Monday’s 4-1 win.

“He gave me the ball and I gave it back to him,” McKeon said. “I told him, `It’s for you.’ I didn’t do nothing. I just stand there and watch. It was nice of him, but it would mean more to him.”

Benitez said McKeon “had confidence in me to give me the ball every time,” and he made his gesture out of appreciation for his manager’s belief in him.

“It’s nice what he did to give it back,” Benitez said. “This is a real good group. I’ve never been with a group like this. We’re like a family. I don’t look for records, just do the job. I had everybody sign the game ball.”

Tomo Ohka (3-7) allowed five hits and three runs in five innings in his second start since returning from breaking a bone in his right arm earlier this season.

Juan Pierre and Paul Lo Duca singled to lead off the game. Pierre advanced to third on Miguel Cabrera’s fly to center and scored on Mike Lowell’s run-scoring grounder to second.

Valdez walked to lead off the third and Pierre hit his second straight single. Both runners advanced on Lo Duca’s sacrifice and Cabrera followed with an RBI grounder to score Valdez and make it 2-0.

Pierre scored his second run on Lowell’s RBI single.

Valdez made Tony Batista his fifth strikeout victim for the second out of the sixth before he walked Terrmel Sledge. He left after allowing Rivera’s two-run shot which drew Montreal to within 4-2.

Valdez allowed two hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings.

Chris Aguila hit his second home run off T.J. Tucker in the ninth to increase the Marlins’ lead to three.


RHP Josh Beckett returned to Texas earlier in the day to attend his grandmother’s funeral. … Expos vice president Claude Delorme said during the game that about 12,000 tickets had been sold to that point for Wednesday night’s game.

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