Marlins' win streak at four

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Florida Marlins are trying to make their
move in the NL wild-card race.

Damion Easley, starting because of an injury to Luis Castillo,
hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning, and the Marlins
beat the New York Mets 6-4 on Monday night to extend their winning
streak to four.

Florida overcame a shaky outing by Dontrelle Willis, who allowed
three homers for the first time in his career, including one to
Mike Piazza in his return from the disabled list.

"I like our chances," Willis said. "We're definitely on a

Miguel Cabrera also hit a two-run homer and Juan Pierre had four
hits for the Marlins, who remained four games back of Chicago, the
NL wild-card leaders, and also trail San Diego and San Francisco.

Florida (67-62) moved five games over .500 for the first time
since June 29. Last year, the Marlins surged with an 18-8 record in
September and went on to win the wild card and their second World
Series title in seven seasons.

"It's nice if you win seven or eight or nice in a row. We
haven't done that this year," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.
"Maybe it's time to get into our September push."

Easley, in the lineup because Castillo was hit on the right foot
by a pitch Sunday from Colorado's Shawn Chacon, overcame a 4-3
deficit against Heath Bell (0-1), who was recalled before the game
and relieved Al Leiter to start the seventh.

Pierre had an infield single to shortstop leading off and
Easley, who didn't know he was starting until he saw the lineup
card in the clubhouse, followed with his seventh homer. He's
batting just .247 in 170 at-bats.

"I just try to stay sharp in the cage," Easley said.

Mike Lowell added an RBI single off Bell for a two-run lead.

"It was hard to watch," Leiter said. "I felt for Bell. He
tried to make his pitches. He just didn't hit all of them."

Meanwhile, the Marlins' bullpen shut down the Mets. Rudy Seanez
(2-1) entered with a man on second and got two outs for the win.
Guillermo Mota pitched two hitless innings, and former Met Armando
Benitez got three outs for his league-leading 39th save in 42
chances -- his ninth against New York this season.

Benitez, as usual, was booed at Shea Stadium, where Mets' fans
turned against him before he was traded last year.

"I can't imagine why he'd be booed," McKeon said. "He's been
spectacular all year long. He's been a lifesaver for us."

Florida, 10-3 against the Mets this year, retired New York's
final 12 batters, getting 11 of the outs from its bullpen.

"We picked each other up," Willis said. "That's how we got to
the postseason last year."

Piazza, sidelined since Aug. 6, played first base and went
1-for-4 with a solo homer in the third and two strikeouts. New York
lost for the eight time in nine games.

"It's August and we're really depleted," Piazza said. "The
frustration here is evident."

Cabrera hit an RBI double in the first and put the Marlins ahead
3-1 with a sixth-inning homer off Leiter, who was pitching against
the team he helped win the 1997 World Series title.

Willis, 5-0 against New York in his career, wasted the lead in
the bottom half when he allowed a two-run homer to David Wright,
who has seven homers since he was brought up from the minors on
July 21. Two pitches later, Jason Phillips turned on a mistake at
the letters, and put it over the left-field wall for a 4-3 lead.

"This is not a minor league game. This is where it counts,"
McKeon said. "You just can't cough it right up every time you get
the lead."

Game notes
Piazza's homer pulled him even with Carlton Fisk for 56th
place on the career list at 376. ... Mota struck out Piazza in the
seventh, keeping the ball away. Mota, then with Los Angeles, hit
Piazza on the hip with a pitch in spring training 2002, then hit
him again in the back of a shoulder in spring training last year,
sparking a brawl in which Piazza charged the mound. ... Easley was
0-for-11 before his first-inning double. ... It was the first
decision of Bell's major league career. ... Pierre has a
season-high 10-game hitting streak, hitting .525 (21-for-40) ...
Phillips, the Mets' catcher, jumped to make a barehanded grab of
Paul Lo Duca's ninth-inning bunt.