Whew. The Braves opened up a 3-0 lead in the first on Gary Sheffield’s homer, then went to sleep for seven innings. Then they woke up to score five runs in the ninth off of Braden Looper. Go figure.
The key hit in the ninth was a two-out two-run single with the bases loaded by Robert Fick, who was inexplicably hitting cleanup. The Braves had already tied the game at four when Sheffield walked to load the bases, but with two out the Marlins could have gotten out of it. But Fick’s single, backed up by Andruw’s two-run triple, broke the Marlins’ backs. With Javy and Chipper taking days off (and Marcus Giles still on the shelf), the pressure was on Fick and Andruw, but until the ninth they hadn’t done much, particularly Andruw who was 0-4 with three strikeouts in the first eight innings. (Putouts galore, though.)
Shane Reynolds managed to not get blown out, which is all we can expect, I guess. Spotted a 3-0 lead he let the Marlins score one in the third, two in the fourth, then one in the sixth. But the bullpen picked him up this time, getting three shutout innings even though Boom-Boom Hernandez threw 2/3 of an inning. Will Cunnane pitched the eighth for the win and Ray King and Jaret Wright finished it.
The Magic Number is four. The Phillies’ desperate efforts to blow a 10-0 lead came up short and they crawl to 1 1/2 back of the Marlins. The Braves travel to Montreal (great, what is that from Miami, a five hour flight, then through customs?) for a three-game series starting tomorrow. The Marlins and Phillies play three starting Tuesday. By Thursday one of those teams should have been eliminated from the division “race”. The Marlins visit Atlanta starting Friday.