Looper, Marlins hang on to edge Expos

MIAMI (AP) -- If the Florida Marlins are going to win the
National League wild-card race, they'll have to do it without
All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell.

The team's cleanup hitter and clubhouse leader will miss the
rest of the season after breaking his left hand Saturday night
against Montreal, an injury that could cripple the Marlins' chances
of staying atop the wild-card race.

Lowell broke the fourth metacarpal bone in his hand when he was
hit by a fastball from Montreal reliever Hector Almonte in the
eighth inning. Lowell dropped to the ground in pain and was holding
his wrist and hand as trainers escorted him off the field. X-rays
revealed the broken bone.

The Marlins beat the Expos 4-3 behind Carl Pavano's eight strong
innings and Juan Encarnacion's four RBI. But the loss of Lowell
overshadowed Florida's second consecutive victory.

"It's a tough blow, but this is a good ballclub," Marlins
manager Jack McKeon said. "This team will pick it up for him. I
think these guys will pick up the slack for Mike, battle the rest
of the way and hope he's back for the playoffs."

Team doctors said Lowell will miss about four weeks -- meaning he
will be out for the rest of the regular season -- but he'll see a
hand specialist Sunday to better determine the severity of the
injury and possible treatments.

"I know it's a freak thing, but I still feel like I'm letting
the guys down," Lowell said. "We've got to grind it out and see
what happens. ... We're going to move on. It's not like we're going
to cancel the next 20 or so games."

Lowell leads the Marlins with 32 homers and 105 RBI, and was
batting .277. He has become one of the league's top defensive third
basemen and one of the main reasons Florida is tied with
Philadelphia for the NL wild-card spot.

"Anytime you take somebody out of the middle of the lineup,
especially a guy like him, it's a crushing blow," Montreal
outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "It's a pretty big loss for

The Expos continued to struggle on the road. They fell to 4-16
on the road since the All-Star break and have scored three or more
runs just five times in the 20 games since the break.

Pavano (11-11) allowed four hits before Vladimir Guerrero led
off the ninth with a solo homer and Wil Cordero singled.

Braden Looper gave up a two-run double to Brian Schneider with
one out before getting the final two outs -- with runners on second
and third -- for his 25th save in 29 chances.

Hernandez lost for the first time in six starts and just the
second time in more than two months. The right-hander allowed three
runs on six hits and three walks in six innings. It was the most
runs he's given up in eight starts.

Hernandez (14-8) dominated his former team early, but
surrendered consecutive walks to Ivan Rodriguez and Lowell with two
outs in the sixth. Encarnacion followed with a three-run shot. He
added an RBI double in the eighth.

Encarnacion's 16th homer provided enough run support for Pavano,
who won his second straight start and picked up his fifth victory
in his last six decisions. Pavano got back to .500 for the first
time since being 2-2 in April.

Pavano walked one, hit one and struck out a career-high 10. He
improved to 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA this season against the Expos.

One of Montreal's few highlights came with the major league
debut of right-hander Chad Cordero, whose contract was purchased
Friday from Single-A Brevard County.

A standout closer at Cal-State Fullerton and Montreal's No. 1
pick in the June amateur draft, Cordero was 1-1 with six saves and
a 2.08 ERA for Brevard County. He walked one and struck out one
while pitching the seventh against Florida.

Almonte took over in the eighth and hit Lowell with two outs and
two strikes.

"I feel bad," Almonte said. "I was trying to pitch inside and
get the last out, but the ball kind of slipped out of my hand."

Game notes
Without Lowell, McKeon said he likely would move LF Miguel
Cabrera to third and use a platoon of players in the vacant
outfield position. ... Marlins C Ramon Castro rejoined the team and
declared his innocence Saturday, two days after he was arrested and
charged with raping a woman in his hotel room. ... The Expos fell
to 6-20 in their last 26 road games. ... Marlins LHP Tommy Phelps
and RHP Kevin Olsen pitched well in rehab appearances Friday night
in Class A Jupiter. Both players could rejoin the Marlins when
rosters are expanded Monday.