Marlins 7, Cubs 5

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CHICAGO (AP)—The top of the Florida Marlins’ order was too much for the Chicago Cubs.

Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre reached base three times, stole two bases and scored three runs, and No. 2 hitter Jeff Conine had three hits, two RBIs and scored three runs, helping the Marlins build a seven-run lead on the way to a 7-5 victory on Friday.

The loss was the Cubs’ fifth in six games.

“When you have guys ahead of you who get on base, I don’t care what spot you’re hitting in, you want to take advantage of that and drive them in,” Conine said. “Juan Pierre was on base ahead of me. (Jason) Vargas was on base ahead of me. I had some opportunities.”

Pierre was 1-for 3, and also reached base after being hit by a pitch and on a throwing error by Chicago shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who played third base for the first time since high school.

Conine was 3-for-4 with a double and a walk.

“They did a good job, both Pierre and Conine, of getting on base and setting things up for the rest of the guys,” Florida manager Jack McKeon said. “Pierre’s a big factor is helping us score. (Conine) is a good RBI guy, he showed that today.”

Vargas (5-1), Florida’s rookie left-handed starter, pitched five scoreless innings before the Cubs rallied with five runs in the sixth to cut into a 7-0 lead.

Vargas, making his sixth career start and 10th appearance, allowed nine hits and five runs in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked three, and had two singles in three at-bats.

“I wasn’t tired, I just wasn’t fooling anybody,” Vargas said. “I don’t think my pitches we that bad. They were just hitting pitches that they were missing earlier in the game.”

The Marlins got scoreless relief from Randy Messenger and Antonio Alfonseca, and Todd Jones got the final four outs for his 30th save, including 20 straight successful opportunities.

Florida’s Miguel Cabrera added two hits, including a double, a two RBIs.

Garciaparra, out of the lineup since Sunday with a sore back, filled in at third for Aramis Ramirez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quad. He made a throwing error on his first of two chances, firing wide of first after cleanly fielding Pierre’s bunt in the third.

“That comes with learning the position,” Garciaparra said. “ I probably should have just hung onto the ball and gone from there.

“It was definitely a learning experience and we’ll see it they keep me out there.”

Jerry’s Hairston’s double with the bases loaded drove in three runs and was the key hit in the sixth as the Cubs batted around. Jeromy Burnitz and Matt Lawton drove in runs with singles in the inning.

Chicago starter Glendon Rusch (5-7) lost his fifth straight decision. He lasted 4 2-3 innings, allowing five runs on eight hits.

Rusch, who has been in and out of the Cubs’ rotation, hasn’t won since June 2 at San Diego.

“In all of the three starts since I’ve come back in the rotation, I’ve had trouble in the first,” Rusch said. “I have no explanation. I’m not making good pitches.”

Florida took a 2-0 lead in the first on Conine’s RBI double and Carlos Delgado’s sacrifice fly.

The Marlins stretched their lead to 4-0 in the third.

After Vargas led off with an infield single, Pierre tested Garciaparra with a bunt.

Garciaparra fielded the ball cleanly and looked to second to try to force Vargas, but no one was covering. Garciaparra’s throw to first was wide, allowing Pierre to reach base and Vargas to advance to third.

“That was a play you never see: a slug bunt,” Baker said. “When Nomar went to second, no one was there. When he went to first D. (Derrek) Lee was trying to retreat to first and Neifi (Perez) was trying to get second base and he kind of threw in between them.”

Conine drove in Vargas with a single and Pierre eventually scored on Cabrera’s double-play grounder.

Juan Encarnacion drove in Conine from third with a bloop single in the fifth to make it 5-0.

Cabrera drove in two runs with a double off Michael Wuertz in the sixth.

^Notes: The Cubs had three natural shortstops in their lineup on Wednesday. Garciaparra was at third, Neifi Perez was at second and Ronny Cedeno, who was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to fill Ramirez’s roster spot, was at shortstop. … Garciaparra went 0-for-4. … Cubs C Michael Barrett hit in the clean up spot, backing-up NL batting leader Derrek Lee in the third slot. … Florida INF Luis Castillo missed his second straight game and eight in his last 10 due to a sore left quad muscle. Damion Easley started in his place at second. … Pierre stole a base for the second straight game after going 10 without a steal. He’s second in the NL with 44 steals.

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