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Ring ceremony delays game

4/10/2004

MIAMI (AP) -- Hee Seop Choi watched from the bench as his Florida
teammates received their World Series rings Saturday.

It was all the motivation he needed.

Choi homered twice, wanting to do what he could to get his own
ring, and the Marlins rallied for a 5-3 victory over the
Philadelphia Phillies.

Choi's leadoff homer in the sixth tied the game at 3, and Miguel
Cabrera hit a two-run shot in the seventh to help Florida beat the
Phillies for the 12th time in 14 games. The Phillies have lost nine
in a row in Miami.

"I was envious," Choi said through an interpreter. "I wanted
one, too. That motivated me."

The pregame ring ceremony delayed the game for more than 15
minutes and seemed to incite Philadelphia, which took an early 3-0
lead before the bullpen blew it for the second consecutive night.

The Marlins played much like they did last postseason. They
started their comeback in the fourth when Choi homered to right
with two outs. Alex Gonzalez doubled to open the fifth and scored
on Juan Pierre's single.

Phillies starter Brett Myers allowed another hit and two walks,
prompting bench coach Gary Varsho to go to the bullpen early.
Varsho was filling in for Larry Bowa, who served a one-game
suspension for spring training beanballs. Bowa watched the game on
television from the visiting manager's office.

He saw Choi even the game with his third homer of the season.
The left-handed hitter was supposed to struggle at spacious Pro
Player Stadium. Instead, the player nicknamed "Big IHOP" by
manager Jack McKeon has six of the team's 18 RBI.

"We knew he had good power," McKeon said. "It was just a
matter of being consistent."

Luis Castillo singled off Rheal Cormier in the seventh, forcing
another pitching change, and Cabrera drove Roberto Hernandez's
first pitch into the left-field seats.

Before Friday night's game, Cormier (1-2) had not lost since
August 2002. Now he has dropped two in two nights to the Marlins.

"They never give up," Hernandez said. "That's a good
ballclub, a young ballclub. There's not a game that they think
they're out of. It's why they won well over 50 games at home last
year. This ballpark works well for them. They don't give games
away, and if you make a mistake, they make you pay."

Darren Oliver (1-0) gave the Marlins another strong start. He
allowed eight hits and two earned runs in seven innings. Armando
Benitez pitched the ninth for his fourth save in four chances.

Oliver went 13-11 with a 5.04 ERA in 33 games for Colorado last
season. He is expected to keep the No. 5 spot in the rotation until
right-hander A.J. Burnett completes his rehabilitation from
reconstructive elbow surgery.

Oliver, like Choi, was fueled by watching the ring ceremony from
afar.

"I'm jealous," he said. "I want one."

The Phillies were picked by many to win the NL East. But they
are off to a 1-4 start after blowing a second straight three-run
lead and losing to the Marlins again.

"It's not a big deal right now because they're going to get
theirs," Myers said of the Marlins. "We'll get it going and jell,
and it will be trouble for them."

Still, Myers noticed the Marlins have changed little from last
season, when they won it all with strong pitching and timely
hitting.

"They're a scrappy team," he said. "They're the world
champions. What they did tonight is what they did last year. They
come back on you, and they always fight back. They're not a team
that panics just because they're down three or four runs."

Game notes
Phillies OF Pat Burrell extended his torrid start with his
eighth hit. He is batting .444. ... The Marlins, who led the majors
last season with 150 stolen bases, swiped their first Saturday
night. Mike Lowell, one of the team's slowest players, did it. ...
The champs had their second sellout of the season, with 45,725 on
hand for "ring night."