Marlins 6, Braves 2

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MIAMI (AP)—Josh Beckett’s finger felt great for six innings. And in the best news of all for the Florida Marlins, it felt pretty good after the game as well.

Beckett allowed only one hit in his return from the disabled list, and Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion homered to help the Florida Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 Thursday night in a game delayed nearly three hours by rain.

Beckett (8-5) was activated a few hours before the game; he hadn’t thrown since June 14 because of the sixth blister problem of his major league career.

He summoned pitching coach Mark Wiley and a trainer, who examined the middle finger on his pitching hand, before starting the seventh. But the Marlins said removing Beckett from the game was merely precautionary.

“We’re trying to make every start from here on out,” said Beckett, the 2003 World Series MVP. “And we’re just being smart about it. … Everything’s great. I’m going to make my next start, throw my next bullpen (session) and everything.”

Cabrera’s homer, his 16th of the year and fifth against Atlanta this season, highlighted Florida’s three-run opening inning against Braves starter Roman Colon (0-4). Encarnacion hit his 11th, and second in as many nights, in the second inning.

Mike Lowell hit a two-run single, Luis Castillo had two hits—giving him six in his last two games—and Juan Pierre had two hits and scored twice for the Marlins, who are 2-0 under interim manager Harry Dunlop. Manager Jack McKeon, who has been away because of a death in the family, rejoins the team Friday when the team opens a weekend series against the New York Mets.

“Now we’re feeling good going into New York,” Cabrera said. “We’re swinging the bats pretty good right now.”

Brian McCann hit his second homer for Atlanta, which also got a run-scoring double from Julio Franco—who had eight RBIs during the four-game series.

Franco’s pinch-hit drove home Ryan Langerhans in the eighth, drawing the Braves to 4-2. But Lowell’s two-run single in the bottom half sealed the win, which gave Florida a series split.

The only hit Beckett allowed was a two-out, fifth-inning single by McCann— in the game because starter Johnny Estrada, manager Bobby Cox and injured left-hander Mike Hampton were ejected in the first inning for arguing with plate umpire Doug Eddings.

“He made some inappropriate comments towards me. That’s why he was ejected,” Eddings said, referring to Estrada.

Estrada said he was upset with Eddings’ strike zone, and he appeared to bump the umpire after he was ejected. He also made an obscene gesture in Eddings’ direction.

So, after waiting through a 2-hour, 46-minute delay to start the game, the trio returned to the clubhouse for another couple of hours waiting for the game to end.

Both Cox and Estrada insisted Eddings escalated the argument with coarse language.

“At one point, I said, ‘Why are you yelling at me?”’ Estrada said. “I don’t think it’s right, he can say what he wants and I can’t.”

Said Cox, referring to Eddings: “He did all the yelling and he did a real bad thing.”

The Marlins wanted the game played in part because they felt like pitching Beckett against Colon gave them an edge. Plus, the Braves’ bullpen was probably a bit tired; Atlanta used eight relievers in Florida’s 6-5, 13-inning win on Wednesday night.

“We were happy to play,” Dunlop said. “We wanted to play it. You always want to play the game if you can. Nobody likes to play doubleheaders.”

But the Braves—who, like the Marlins, traveled after the game—weren’t happy with the decision to play.

“When we saw that the rain delay was an hour and a half, we knew we were going to play,” McCann said. “I don’t think we should have. We both had planes to catch.”

Notes

The rain delay was 26 minutes longer than the actual game. Paid attendance was 23,147; it appeared about 6,000 waited out the delay. Among those who stayed until the very end was Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy, a big Marlins fan. … It was Cox’s second ejection of the season, and 16th since the start of 2003. … It was the first time in the Braves’ last 10 road games where they failed to get at least 10 hits. … A.J. Burnett, a free agent-in-waiting who’s been the subject of recent trade rumors, met with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria on the field during the delay. Team president David Samson said the conversation was about whether Burnett wanted to be flown early to New York, where he’s scheduled to face the Mets on Friday.

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