Florida rallies to beat the Mets

July 28, 2008 8:52:50 PM PDT
With another come-from-behind win, the surprising Florida Marlins are on the verge of erasing the New York Mets' lead in the NL East. Dan Uggla and Cody Ross hit RBI singles to spark a five-run eighth inning, and Florida overtook New York 7-3 Monday night.

The Marlins have rallied to win 31 times this year, most in the National League.

"You definitely don't draw it up like that," Ross said. "You'd rather go out there and win 4-0. But it shows how much heart we have as a team."

The latest Marlins' rally came one day after they blew a 5-0 lead in a loss to the Chicago Cubs. Florida's comeback kids, who have by far the smallest payroll in the majors, closed within a game of division leader New York.

"It's just about riding the wave," Uggla said. "If we keep playing the way we're playing, showing up at the ballpark and doing our thing, we'll be fine."

Idle Philadelphia pulled within a half-game of New York. Adding to the Mets' gloom, starter John Maine left the game after 4 1-3 innings because of a stiff shoulder, and he'll return to New York for tests.

"I'm frustrated because I want to go out there and pitch," Maine said.

Florida is last in the majors in attendance, but there was a lively atmosphere for the series opener, thanks in part to the transplanted New Yorkers in the crowd of 23,165 who chanted "Let's go Mets!" from the first inning on.

"It's kind of annoying," Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco said. "But the Marlins fans are defending us, and it's exciting to get the fans going back and forth."

The cheers were all for the home team in the bottom of the eighth. The Marlins lead the majors in home runs, but this time they scored with finesse, bunching five consecutive hits.

"We actually played some small ball," Uggla said. "Next thing you know, we've got some runs."

With Florida trailing 3-2, Josh Willingham led off with a double against Joe Smith (1-3), and Uggla followed with a tying single.

Uggla took third when pinch-hitter Wes Helms singled off Scott Schoeneweis, and Ross followed with a base hit to put the Marlins ahead.

John Baker's sacrifice bunt went for a hit to load the bases.

Schoeneweis retired the next two batters and was one strike from getting out of the inning, but a wild pitch let in a run, and pinch-hitter Robert Andino hit a two-run double.

"They turned things in their favor, and we have to give them credit for it," Mets shortstop Jose Reyes said.

The comeback erased the sting of two fielding lapses by Florida that allowed New York to take the lead in the top of the eighth. First the Marlins left a base uncovered, allowing David Wright to advance to third, and then they failed to turn a routine double play that would have ended the inning.

The run was charged to Doug Waechter (3-2), who went one inning. Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect ninth.

Baker hit his third homer for Florida's first run. Nolasco allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings.

Maine took a 2-0 lead into the fifth, but when he fell behind leadoff batter Baker 2-0, a trainer and manager Jerry Manuel went to the mound.

Maine stayed in the game, and Baker - batting .163 - homered on the next pitch. After Maine retired the next batter, Manuel removed him. The right-hander threw 75 pitches.

"I didn't like what I saw, so to be on the safe side, I got him out," Manuel said.

Maine said he had felt pain in the back of his shoulder since his last start.

"It was sore, but I told them I could go out there and pitch," he said.

Florida tied it in the sixth against Carlos Muniz. Mike Jacobs walked with two out, took second on a wild pitch and came home on Ross' single.

New York went ahead in the top of the eighth. After Wright led off with a single, the Marlins went with their standard shift for Carlos Delgado, bunching three infielders on the right side.

Delgado topped a grounder to first baseman Jacobs, who threw to the pitcher covering first for the out. But with no one covering third, Wright kept running and advanced uncontested.

"We may not see that play again," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Carlos Beltran was intentionally walked, and when the Marlins failed to turn a double play on Fernando Tatis' grounder, Wright put the Mets ahead by scoring in his 12th consecutive game, which tied Beltran's team record set in 2006.

Notes: Mets RHP Pedro Martinez, who has been away following the death of his father, is expected to rejoin the team and throw in the bullpen Tuesday. He's scheduled to start Friday at Houston. ... Marlins C Matt Treanor (hip), sidelined since July 8, was examined Monday in Philadelphia by Dr. Williams Meyers, who ruled out surgery. Treanor will resume a rehabilitation program, the team said. ... The Marlins said CF Alejandro De Aza, sidelined all season by an ankle injury, underwent surgery last week. ... Maine has 47 strikeouts in 35 career innings against Florida.