Braves 5, Marlins 3

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ATLANTA (AP)—Marcus Giles has seen the Atlanta Braves lose their edge in the final two weeks of a season when they clinched their division title early.

Giles says he hopes a three-game sweep of the fading Florida Marlins, capped by Sunday’s rally for a 5-3 win, shows that this year the Braves are gaining momentum just in time for the playoffs.

“The last few weeks we had been playing poorly, but hopefully we can ride this all the way through Halloween,” Giles said after he hit a tying two-run homer and then drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly.

Atlanta (89-67) lowered its magic number for clinching the NL East to two. The Braves remained five games ahead of Philadelphia as they seek their 14th straight division title.

The Braves have lost in the first round of the playoffs three straight years. Giles says that recent streak of early postseason failures could be cured by a better finish to the regular season.

“In the last few years we’ve hit a bad spell right now because we’ve already clinched,” Giles said.

“I think if I could pick any time for us to get hot, it’s right now.”

Florida’s A.J. Burnett (12-12) couldn’t hold an early 3-0 lead as his losing streak stretched to a career-worst six games.

After the game, Burnett indicated he will not re-sign with the team after the season.

“I’ve got one more start here, and that’s all that matters,” Burnett said in an apparent reference to leaving the team as a free agent.

“It’s depressing around here. There’s nothing positive around here. There’s nothing positive on the staff now.”

Burnett was mentioned as a player who could be traded before this year’s trade deadline.

“You give up one home run, and it’s a funeral. … A positive pat on the back is better than anything,” he said. “I haven’t seen a pat on the back since April.”

Asked who he was targeting with his criticism, Burnett said, “I’m not naming names.”

“Everybody gets frustrated at times,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “I think sometimes you’ve got to look in the mirror. He’s just frustrated. We certainly don’t play. None of the coaches pitch or hit.”

The Marlins have lost nine of 11 and are five games behind Houston in the wild-card race.

With the score tied at 3, Burnett walked pinch-hitter Pete Orr to lead off the seventh inning—Burnett’s fourth walk of the game. Rafael Furcal then dropped a bunt down the third-base line. Catcher Matt Treanor’s throw toward first bounced up the right-field line for an error, putting runners at second and third.

McKeon brought in Randy Messenger, who gave up Giles’ fly to center that gave the Braves a 4-3 lead. Furcal advanced to third on the play and scored on Andruw Jones’ grounder to short, pushing the lead to 5-3.

“They seize any opening and jump on it,” McKeon said of the Braves.

Burnett won seven straight starts from July 19 to Aug. 15, but the hard-throwing right-hander was 0-5 with a 5.85 ERA in six starts leading to Sunday’s game.

Burnett gave up five runs, four earned, and six hits in six-plus innings. He had eight strikeouts.

Blaine Boyer (4-2) recorded one out in the seventh for the win. Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect ninth for his 10th save in 10 chances with the Braves. Five Braves relievers gave up one hit in four innings.

Atlanta’s Jorge Sosa, who had been 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four September starts, couldn’t take advantage of his opportunity to match John Smoltz for the team lead with 14 wins.

Sosa gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings with four walks—two intentional.

Sosa trailed before recording an out. Juan Pierre led off the first inning with a triple past a diving Jones in left-center, and Jeff Conine followed with a run-scoring single.

The Marlins pushed the lead to 3-0 in the third. Burnett led off with a single and scored on Carlos Delgado’s double to center. Mike Lowell drove in Delgado with a double.

The Braves managed one run in the fourth when Chipper Jones walked, moved to third on a single by Adam LaRoche and scored on Jeff Francoeur’s fly ball to the right-field wall.

Giles snapped a 2-for-22 slump with his game-tying homer off Burnett with two outs in the fifth. Giles’ 13th homer landed in the Braves’ bullpen behind the right-field wall and drove in Brian McCann, who led off the inning with a single.

Notes

Burnett, a career .128 hitter who carried a .123 batting average into the game, had two hits. … Burnett has not won a road game since Aug. 4 at St. Louis. … Attendance was 48,147, the second straight sellout in the series. … The Braves moved to 10-5 against the Marlins this season.

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