Rain delay leaves 5,000 in stands

ATLANTA (AP) -- John Thomson sat in the bullpen and watched the
rain fall, itching for a chance to end a personal losing streak.

Finally -- nearly 3½ hours later -- it came.

Thomson won for the first time in nearly a month and J.D. Drew
homered to help the Atlanta Braves beat the Florida Marlins 6-1 on
Monday night in a game that started shortly before 11 p.m.

"It caught me off guard that I got loose real quickly after the
rain delay," he said. "I actually felt really good when I picked
up the ball again."

Only about 5,000 fans were left to watch the Braves beat the
Marlins for the fourth straight time at Turner Field in a game that
ended at 1:24 a.m.

"Baseball players are night owls anyway," Drew said. "I don't
think I go to bed until around 2 o'clock, so this is right about my

The inclement weather also wasn't a factor Thomson (6-6), who
allowed only three hits in six innings to bounce back from four
straight bad starts. He stayed in the bullpen for most of the
delay, leaving only to grab a quick sandwich in the clubhouse.

After beating Philadelphia on June 3, Thomson went 0-4 with a
9.72 ERA during his next four outings. He gave up five runs on five
hits in only four innings in his most recent one, a 6-0 loss to the
Marlins last week.

But he retired 11 of the first 12 he faced Monday night and
cruised after Atlanta gave him a 4-0 lead in the third.

"I was able to change speeds better on them," Thomson said.
"I threw my curveball more, kept it down instead of hanging it up
there. I just executed my pitches, basically, better than I did
five days ago."

The Braves matched their longest winning streak of the season at
three, a day after rallying from a seven-run deficit to win 8-7
over the Baltimore Orioles.

Andruw Jones went 2-for-4 with two RBI and Nick Green added
three hits for Atlanta, which moved within 3½ games of the lead in
the NL East.

"It is difficult to sit around for hours and hours and kick it
back up," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "I told our guys that
we had to out there and really hustle."

Florida dropped into a first-place tie with Philadelphia, which
beat Montreal 14-6 earlier Monday night.

Brad Penny (7-6) gave up five runs on nine hits in five innings,
including Drew's two-run homer in the third. Jeff Conine drove in
the Marlins' only run by driving home Hee Seop Choi with a
fourth-inning double.

"I guess the delay paid off for them," Florida manager Jack
McKeon said. "Penny warmed up, then sat down. I don't know if that
hurt him or not."

Penny wasn't around after the game, but catcher Mike Redmond
thought the delay was a factor.

"He sat for a long time, after being fully warmed up," Redmond
said. "That was a long wait."

The rain that delayed the start began innocently enough, coming
down in a light sprinkle after the national anthem. The grounds
crew stayed ready near the tarp, and when the weather got worse,
the field was covered.

Once during the delay, the crew started pulling back the tarp,
only to be met with the hardest rain of the night.

"If you had been looking at the same weather radar we had been
looking at, there is nothing that would lead you to believe that
this wasn't passing in five or 10 minutes," Braves executive Mike
Plant said. "The guys that are pros at this are as baffled as
anybody. It's unfortunate."

Game notes
Atlanta left fielder Charles Thomas went 2-for-4 in his
third start since being called up from Triple-A Richmond, and made
a great sliding catch on a foul popup by Choi in the sixth. ...
After Drew's homer, Penny hit Braves C Johnny Estrada in the leg
with a pitch, drawing a warning from umpire Paul Nauert. Estrada
left the game. ... Florida SS Alex Gonzalez went 0-for-3, dropping
him to 1-for-15 on the road trip. ... Atlanta 1B Julio Franco hit
his first triple of the season in the second.