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Penny hurt, but Marlins extend wild-card lead

MIAMI (AP) -- The night started badly for the Florida Marlins, with Brad Penny hurting his elbow warming up and leaving the game
trailing by three runs after 24 pitches.

But it ended in jubilation, with the Marlins pouring out of the
dugout to celebrate Juan Pierre's game-winning single in the ninth
inning.

By beating the Atlanta Braves 5-4 Friday, the Marlins increased
their NL wild-card lead to 1½ games over Philadelphia, which lost
8-4 at Pittsburgh.

The Marlins won their sixth game in a row. They've won 12 of
their past 14 to climb a season-best 17 above .500.

``It's quite a roll,'' said Braden Looper, who pitched a perfect
ninth for the victory. ``Hopefully, it's a team of destiny because
it's a lot of fun.''

The Marlins overcame a 4-2 deficit in the eighth and the loss of
Penny, who gave up three runs before departing in the first inning
with a hyperextended pitching elbow.

``I did it in the bullpen,'' he said. ``I felt it on every
pitch.''

Penny, scheduled to make three more starts during the regular
season, will undergo an MRI on Saturday.

He was replaced by Rick Helling, who pitched 4 1/3 scoreless
innings, retiring 11 in a row during one stretch. Chad Fox, Ugueth Urbina and Looper (6-3) completed a seven-hitter.

Atlanta's Mike Hampton allowed two runs and eight hits in seven
innings, but Florida rallied in the eighth against Jaret Wright,
with the tying run scoring on a two-out wild pitch.

Then the Marlins won in their final at-bat for the 18th time.

``We never panicked,'' Pierre said. ``We knew we were going to
score some runs.''

With their 82nd victory, the Marlins are assured of the second
winning season in the 11-year history of the franchise. The only
other time they finished above .500 was in 1997, when they won the
World Series.

``What a comeback,'' manager Jack McKeon said. ``These guys are
exciting and fun to be around. They never quit.''

Atlanta fell to 76-6 when leading after seven innings.

``That's one you've got to win,'' manager Bobby Cox said.

Alex Gonzalez reached leading off the ninth when a pitch from
Ray King (3-3) nicked his left elbow, and Looper followed with the first sacrifice of his career. Pierre then pulled a pitch into the right-field corner
as the crowd of 25,622 erupted.

Atlanta's Andruw Jones hit a two-run homer, his 34th, giving him
a career-high 105 RBI. Teammate Gary Sheffield drove in two runs
with a sacrifice fly and a single.

Ivan Rodriguez led off the eighth with a double, Jeff Conine
walked and Juan Encarnacion sacrificed. Derrek Lee's RBI grounder
sent Conine to third, and he scored when Wright threw a breaking
pitch in the dirt that got away from catcher Javy Lopez.

``I just didn't get it done,'' Wright said. ``I thought I had the stuff I needed, but it didn't work out.''

Florida's Lee hit his 29th homer, a career best.

Penny walked Rafael Furcal on four pitches to start the game,
then gave up a single to Mark DeRosa and a sacrifice fly by
Sheffield. With two out, Jones homered for a 3-0 lead.

Penny gave no indication he was hurt until the next batter,
Lopez, fouled off a pitch to make the count 1-2. Penny walked off
the mound, caught a throw from his catcher and then tossed his
glove aside in frustration. He quickly retrieved the glove and left
the field, having thrown just 24 pitches.

Florida scored in the fourth when Encarnacion singled and
came home on Miguel Cabrera's two-out double. Lee homered in the
sixth to make it 3-2.

Atlanta's Matt Franco singled for his 15th pinch hit this season
leading off the eighth. Pinch-runner Jesse Garcia later scored on
Sheffield's two-out single.

Lee drove in a run with a groundout in the eighth.

Game notes
Braves 2B Marcus Giles was a late scratch with a sore left
ankle. ... The game was the 150th between the two teams. Atlanta
leads the series 83-67. ... Marlins 2B Luis Castillo turned 28 Friday. ... Oops: With runners at first and second and two out in the fifth, Hampton picked DeRosa off first. ... Florida recalled
RHP Blaine Neal from Triple-A Albuquerque. ... The single in the
ninth was Pierre's 185th hit, tying the team record set by Castillo
last year.