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Mesa struggles in ninth, Marlins take advantage

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Florida made three hits work.

Derrek Lee hit a go-ahead single off Jose Mesa with two outs in
the ninth inning Friday night, leading the Marlins over the
Philadelphia Phillies 2-1.

Florida, which has won three of its last four games, was held to
one hit -- a Juan Pierre single leading off the game -- over the
first eight innings and finished with just three singles in all.
The Marlins scored a run in the fourth off Kevin Millwood on a
walk, a steal and a groundout.

"We made the most of our runs and hits, just like we always
seem to do," Florida manager Jack McKeon said. "It was the same
thing in our last game (a 2-1 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday). This
time we got enough key hits to win."

Mesa (3-5) walked Mike Lowell with two outs in the ninth, and
Juan Encarnacion singled Lowell to third. Before Lowell's walk,
Phillies third baseman David Bell turned a potential extra-base hit
by Ivan Rodriguez into a spectacular 5-4-3 double play, erasing
Luis Castillo, who had walked leading off.

"Bell's play could have been a rally-killer for us, but we just
got another rally started," Lee said.

And Lee finished it.

Lee, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts going into the ninth,
followed with a single up the middle on a 3-2 fastball.

"That was a tremendous at-bat for Lee after a couple tough
ones," McKeon said.

Florida is 25-14 since May 23, the best record in the NL East.

"This was a big win for us," Lee said. "We're playing the
kind of baseball we thought we could when we were in spring
training. It just took us a while to get going."

Braden Looper (4-2) pitched 1 2-3 innings and won despite
allowing the tying run in the eighth.

Looper walked two batters in the ninth, then retired Pat Burrell
on a game-ending grounder.

"It was a battle to throw strikes," Looper said. "It was a
very small strike zone for both sides, and it made it way too
exciting."

Placido Polanco drew a leadoff walk off Looper in the ninth.
Jimmy Rollins had popped out on his bunt attempt.

"Jimmy bunted on his own," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said.
"We had taken the sign off."

Looper then went 3-0 on Jim Thome before getting him to fly out
to center.

"That was the high point of the game for me," Looper said.

Not much went right for Philadelphia at the plate. The Phillies
left 13 runners on base, including 12 in the final six innings.

"We had a lot of opportunities to win the game," Bowa said.

Millwood struck out seven and walked two in seven innings. The
one hit off him was his low since pitching a no-hitter against San
Francisco on April 27.

"I feel like I'm getting out of the funk I was in," said
Millwood, 2-5 in his previous seven starts. "I felt I located the
ball much better."

Florida went ahead when Pierre walked, took second on Castillo's
sacrifice, stole third with a huge jump and scored when Rodriguez
hit a one-out RBI grounder to Polanco at second, who threw wildly
to first for an error.

Philadelphia tied it in the eighth. Burrell pinch hit and drew a
one-out walk from Tommy Phelps, and Looper came in and walked Bell.

Pinch-hitter Mike Lieberthal singled to load the bases, and
Marlon Byrd followed with a soft grounder to Lee at first. He threw
to second for an out, but Florida couldn't turn the double play as
Burrell scored.

Florida starter Carl Pavano struck out a season-high seven and
allowed five hits and four walks in 6 2-3 innings. In his previous
start, he allowed six consecutive hits and didn't get an out in a
25-8 loss to Boston, the worst outing of his professional career.

Pierre helped him with a sensational catch in the sixth inning.

With runners on first and second and one out, Ricky Ledee drove
a pitch deep to center. Pierre raced back and made a leaping grab
at the top of the fence for the second out. After a walk to David
Bell, Pavano struck out Todd Pratt.

Pavano, who retired his first nine batters, left in the seventh
with runners on first and second, and Jim Thome at the plate.
Reliever Tommy Phelps threw a wild pitch, then struck out Thome
with a nasty slider.

Game notes
Bobby Abreu's single in the sixth was his 1,000th career
hit. ... Bowa was ejected in the eighth by plate umpire Tim Tschida
for arguing balls and strikes. It was Bowa's fourth ejection (one
automatic) this season. ... Florida SS Alex Gonzalez made a nifty
over-the-shoulder catch in short center to prevent a pair of runs
from scoring in the fourth. ... Looper has blown three save
chances. ... The temperature for the 6:05 p.m. start was 93
degrees.