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Conine Pumped to be with Marlins


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Conine pumped to be with Marlins


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MIAMI - Jeff Conine has been in the big leagues for a long time. And, at

first, he couldn't believe his ears.


"It was the first day I was back here [after being acquired from the

Baltimore Orioles]. And, right from the first pitch, guys were yelling things

out," he said. "I was looking around thinking, 'I've never heard this



"But now I'm doing the same silly stuff, too."


This is the way the Florida Marlins are. They are loose. They are loud.

They have fun.


And with the help of Conine's three-run homer off Kevin Millwood in the

seventh inning last night, they also have a two-game lead in the National

League wild-card race after a 5-4 win over the Phillies at Pro Player



Mike Lieberthal grounded out to first baseman Derrek Lee to end the

game. And almost before Lee stepped on first, the Marlins were racing on

the field, strutting and celebrating as if they had just guaranteed

themselves a playoff spot.


They haven't, at least not mathematically. But they have pinned the

Phillies' shoulders squarely to the outfield wall. All the Marlins need to do

is split the final two games of the series to be two up with three to play.

Even if the Phillies win the next two to tie the race, they have to play the

Braves the final weekend while the Marlins host the free-falling Mets.


And if Florida should win the next two, it will eliminate the Phillies.


"I'm not going to say anything because we haven't clinched anything yet,"

Marlins centerfielder Juan Pierre said. "But I think we're in line for it. I

think we may have taken some of the wind out of their sails."


The Marlins are openly exuberant.


After reliever Chad Fox caught Marlon Byrd looking at a called third strike

to end the eighth, he practically did a sack dance strutting back to the



After Ugueth Urbina struck out Bobby Abreu for the second out of the

ninth he dropped to his knees right on the mound.


"We have a lot of fun," Pierre said. "You look at us in the dugout and

we're acting like little kids."


Conine is batting just .211 since rejoining the Marlins, a team he

anchored during their 1997 world championship season. But he's had his

two biggest games against the Phillies. Last Wednesday at Veterans

Stadium, he homered, made a pivotal running catch and threw out a

runner at the plate.


Last night his homer sparked a team that had been shut out on four hits

by Millwood through the first six innings.


"This team is young and very emotional," Conine said. "We're running on

emotion right now. There's a lot of banter that goes on before the game.

It keeps guys loose and lets their ability come out."


And, apparently, it's contagious. Conine is 37 years old. And he finds

himself joining in. When he got back to the dugout after his home run, he

pumped his fist. Later he said it was only the second time in his career

that he had shown that kind of emotion on the field.



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