MIAMI (AP) -- Playing a weekend series in Florida, the Atlanta
Braves are eager to make their big lead in the NL East even bigger.
Chipper Jones hit a three-run homer to help overcome an early
deficit Friday night, and the Braves reduced their magic number for
clinching the NL East to eight by beating the second-place Marlins
8-1."I was proud to see us match their intensity," Jones said.
"We want to win this series, plain and simple."Florida outhit the Braves 13-11 but stranded 10 runners,
grounded into three double plays and had a runner thrown out at the
plate. The Marlins fell 8½ games behind the Braves, who moved
closer to their 13th consecutive division title."These are big games," said Marcus Giles, who had three hits
and scored twice. "We just can't get too complacent. We have to
continue to play good ball and roll on home."The defending World Series champion Marlins dropped 4½ games
behind San Francisco in the NL wild-card race."We can't afford to lose too many," manager Jack McKeon said.Paul Byrd (8-5), starting on three days' rest for the first time
this season, allowed nine hits but just one run in five innings. He
threw 67 pitches -- all but 11 for strikes -- and pitched around two
errors."I felt good. I felt strong," Byrd said. "I didn't notice any
difference between three and four days' rest."Four relievers completed the 13-hitter. It was the first time in
Marlins history that they totaled 13 or more hits and scored less
than two runs."That game could have been a lot different," Giles said.
"Byrd made big pitches in big situations and turned that game
around."Logan Kensing (0-2), called up last week after spending the
season in Class A, allowed four runs in four innings. Kensing
started for A.J. Burnett, who has won four consecutive starts but
might miss the rest of the season because of elbow inflammation."We're not going to use that as an excuse," McKeon said.
"We're still in this thing."J.D. Drew hit his 31st homer for the Braves, and Adam LaRoche
had three hits and two RBI. Luis Castillo went 4-for-4 for the
Marlins and scored their run.Kensing held the Braves hitless until the fourth, when they
scored four times. Giles led off with a single and stole second.
Drew walked, and Jones hit his 29th homer to put Atlanta ahead 3-1.
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out, and another
run scored when the Marlins failed to turn a double play on a
grounder by Byrd, who barely beat the throw to first."We just needed one time through the lineup to get a good look
at the pitcher," Jones said.With 88 RBI, Jones has a chance a chance to reach 100 for the
ninth straight season, a feat accomplished only by Sammy Sosa in
the NL. Jones had just 34 RBI at the All-Star break.Atlanta added three runs in the fifth against Ben Howard, who
failed to retire any of the five batters he faced and drew boos
from the crowd of 26,084. Johnny Estrada's bases-loaded single
drove in one run, and LaRoche followed with a two-run single.Byrd pitched around two errors in the second. Mike Lowell
reached on a misplay by third baseman Jones, and when center
fielder Andruw Jones bobbled Jeff Conine's single, the Marlins had
runners at second and third with no outs.Byrd then retired Juan Encarnacion, Alex Gonzalez and Kensing to
keep the game scoreless.Florida took a 1-0 lead in the third on singles by Luis
Castillo, Paul Lo Duca and Miguel Cabrera. Left fielder Charles
Thomas threw out Lo Duca trying to score from second on a two-out
single by Conine.
The Marlins are 4-10 against Atlanta and 34-13 against the
rest of the NL East. ... Andruw Jones' error was just his third
this season. ... Byrd improved to 3-2 at Pro Player Stadium with an
ERA of 1.91. ... Kensing's ERA fell to 11.57 from 15.00.