Mets 5, Marlins 4

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NEW YORK (AP)—After Florida’s slender wild-card hopes were jolted Wednesday night when the New York Mets scored in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Marlins 5-4, outfielder Jeff Conine considered the condition of his team.

The Marlins have lost six of seven games, and with Houston and Philadelphia both winning Wednesday night, Florida fell four games behind the Astros and two behind the Phillies in the National League wild-card race with 10 games to play.

“We’re basically down to our last gasp,” Conine said.

And it may have to come without slugger Miguel Cabrera, who was forced to leave the game in the first inning after fouling a ball off his left knee.

Cabrera, the league’s third-leading hitter at .321, completed the at-bat by striking out, but left the game with a contusion to his knee. That left the Marlins with three regulars out of the lineup as second baseman Luis Castillo (hamstring) and shortstop Alex Gonzalez (elbow) are also sidelined.

Cabrera was limping in the clubhouse and said he did not know if he could play Thursday against New York in what amounts to a must-win game for the Marlins.

“You see what we’re putting out there,” manager Jack McKeon said, referring to the makeshift lineup because of the injuries. “Give them credit. They’re scraping and scraping. We were just one hit away, which has basically been the story of our season, one hit away from breaking some games open.”

Still, he remained hopeful.

“We’re still breathing,” McKeon said. “We’ve got to get some production. We’ve got to win them all.”

Roberto Hernandez (7-6) dodged a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth when Mike Lowell, who had homered and singled, grounded out, ending the inning.

The Mets then pushed across the winning run against reliever Paul Quantrill (2-2) when Jose Reyes singled and reached second on an error by center fielder Juan Pierre and Miguel Cairo followed with a single to center.

“I saw him kick the ball when I got to first base,” Reyes said. “When I saw that, I’m going, no doubt about that. Put myself in scoring position. I run hard out of the box every time. You never know what might happen with the ball.”

That is manager Willie Randolph’s style.

“It sets the tone when you run hard out of the box,” Randolph said. “We stressed that from Day One in spring training. That was a perfect example of why we do what Jose did. We want that reputation.”

Florida took a 4-3 lead on RBI singles by pinch-hitters Lenny Harris and Josh Willingham in a bizarre eighth inning that was delayed 12 minutes by a light failure at Shea Stadium.

Four banks at the far end of the right-and left-field stands, consisting of between 25 and 30 lights each, went out with Carlos Delgado batting. When play resumed, Delgado was struck out by reliever Tim Hamulack.

“It’s a big-league stadium,” McKeon said. “Give us big-league lights. Everybody in the top deck had cigarette lighters.”

Mets closer Braden Looper then got his eighth blown save of the season when he walked Paul Lo Duca and surrendered hits to Lowell and Harris, the all-time leader in pinch hits with 209 in 17 major league seasons.

Shingo Takatsu relieved Looper and Willingham singled home the go-ahead run.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the inning as Carlos Beltran led off with a walk and Cliff Floyd singled against reliever Ron Villone. Antonio Alfonseca relieved and struck out David Wright but Mike Piazza followed with a single, tying the game at 4.

Lowell tied it at 2 in the fourth with his eighth homer. He had been slated to make his first career start at second base but never got there, moved to his familiar spot at third base when Cabrera was forced to leave the game.

Cabrera’s early departure came back to haunt the Marlins in the seventh. Hits by Pierre and Conine put runners at first and third with two outs. Cabrera’s No. 3 spot in the batting order was due up but rookie callup Joe Dillon, who replaced him, flied to right.


Former New York State Athletic commissioner and light heavyweight champion Jose Torres was a press box visitor. … Batting against an overshifted infield in the third, Delgado tapped a ball down the third-base line and beat it out, but he took a wide turn and was thrown out trying to get back to first base.

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