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Marlins 4 out in NL wild card

 

By Juan C. Rodriguez

Staff Writer

Posted September 18 2004

 

The Marlins weren't supposed to win Friday.

 

Not with Logan Kensing on the mound making his second start out of Class-A ball. Not against the division-leading Braves. Not against a veteran pitcher that had allowed two runs or less in four straight starts.

 

None of that made the 8-1 loss at Pro Player Stadium any more palatable. Kensing completed three innings without allowing a run or a hit. The Marlins amassed nine hits in five innings off Paul Byrd and couldn't produce more than a run.

 

By game's end, the Marlins had out-hit the Braves 13-11. All that yielded was the undesirable distinction of participating in the franchise's first 13-hit, one-run game.

 

"We had 13 hits, we just couldn't get one at the right time," said manager Jack McKeon, whose team fell four back of the Cubs and Giants, who played a late game against the Padres, in the National League wild-card standings.

 

The Marlins went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position, couldn't score in the second with runners on second and third and no outs, and had a runner thrown out at the plate to end the third.

 

Had the offensive circumstances been different, maybe Kensing still serves up a three-run homer to Chipper Jones as part of a four-run fourth. Maybe Ben Howard still fails to retire a batter to start the fifth and allows three runs.

 

The Marlins would have loved to find out if a few more early runs might have altered the outcome.

 

"We get Logan a two- or three-run lead, you can breath a little easier as a pitcher, especially a young guy," center fielder Juan Pierre said.

 

Kensing was considerably better than last week, when he allowed five runs on eight hits in two innings at Wrigley Field. He held the Braves to four hits, but he issued five walks. The first three didn't hurt. The fourth came with a man on second and no outs in the fourth, just before Jones crushed a 1-0 fastball 403 feet over the left-field wall.

 

"I still didn't have the breaking ball I should have," Kensing said. "You're not going to beat big-league teams with two pitches. ... I'll take every chance I can get and hopefully every time out it keeps getting better."

 

Added Braves manager Bobby Cox: "That kid's got a nice future, 95 [mph] with sink, tremendous movement. I like him. The first inning we said, `Holy cow, he's hard to hit.' He just needs to keep going out there."

 

The crowd of 26,084 received plenty of early indicators this might be a rough night offensively. After Luis Castillo reached on the first of his four singles and stole second in the first, neither Paul Lo Duca nor Miguel Cabrera could knock him in. An inning later they put runners on second and third with no outs thanks to a pair of Braves errors. Juan Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez popped up first pitches to short-center and second, respectively. Kensing followed with a fly to center.

 

The Marlins did score the game's first run on Cabrera's RBI single in the third, but the rally short-circuited. After three straight one-out base hits, Jeff Conine delivered a fourth single. Trying to score from second, Lo Duca arrived so far behind Charles Thomas' throw he didn't even attempt to slide or plow into counterpart Johnny Estrada.

 

Byrd (8-5) exited with a six-run lead after five innings have thrown all but 11 of 67 pitches for balls. Four other relievers, including closer John Smoltz, held the Marlins scoreless through the final four.

 

"It's not the end of the world," McKeon said. "You can't afford to lose too many, but when you go up against a club like that, our philosophy has always been to get the series."

 

Juan C. Rodriguez can be reached at jcrodriguez@sun-sentinel.com.

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