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Conine sparks Florida comeback

9/24/2003

MIAMI (AP) -- Jeff Conine was so thrilled by his home run Tuesday
that he pumped his fist, something he said he has done only one other
time in a 12-year career.

His teammates were excited, too. They mobbed Conine at the plate
to celebrate the biggest hit in the Florida Marlins' biggest game
this season.

Conine's three-run homer off Kevin Millwood highlighted a
five-run seventh inning, and Florida rallied to beat the fading
Philadelphia Phillies 5-4. The victory gave the Marlins a two-game
lead over Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race with five games to
go.

"This team is doing it on emotion," said Conine, a member of
the Marlins' 1997 World Series championship team who was reacquired
Aug. 31. "The way we've been winning games and having fun, you've
got to like our chances."

A shaky start by Dontrelle Willis left the Marlins trailing 3-0,
but they rallied to keep from falling into a tie with the Phillies.

"This took a little wind out of their sails," said Juan Pierre, who reached base three times for Florida. "But the way this season has gone back and forth, I'm not going to say anything. Wednesday is an even bigger game."

The Phillies will be desperate for a victory in the second game
of the three-game series. Brett Myers (14-8) is scheduled to face
Florida's Josh Beckett (8-8).

"These guys are professionals," Philadelphia manager Larry
Bowa said. "They won't quit until they pull the plug on the
respirator."

The Marlins will be tough to catch, with their final five games
in Miami. They've won 23 of their past 29 home games since July 21,
best in the major leagues.

"An outstanding bunch of warriors," manager Jack McKeon said.
"The guys are excited about being in the race. This is the first
time for a lot of them."

Jimmy Rollins' two-run double in the second put the Phillies
ahead until Florida came back. Bowa needed four pitchers to get
through the seventh, which included four bases on balls and just
three Florida hits.

"The thing that killed us is we walked four guys," Bowa said.

The Phillies lost for the sixth time in 10 games, and they've
lost five in a row in Miami.

"We know our backs are up against the wall right now,"
Millwood said. "We'll either come out fighting, or this thing will
be over pretty soon."

Millwood was splendid for six innings, allowing only four
baserunners. He retired nine in a row during one stretch.

"The mood of the dugout was that we didn't think it was going
to happen tonight," Conine said. "That's how in control Millwood
was."

But the tiring right-hander gave up his first walks of the game
to Derrek Lee and Miguel Cabrera to start the seventh. One out
later, Conine lined a fastball over the scoreboard to tie the score,
and the crowd of 25,311 roared.

"Twenty-five thousand sounded like 50,000," Conine said. "I
hit home plate, and I felt about 200 hands hitting me on top of the
helmet and slapping me on the back and pushing me around. My hands
are tingling still from all the hand slaps."

Conine said his only other fist pump after a homer came when
he gave the NL a victory in the 1995 All-Star Game.

Mike Williams (1-7) replaced Millwood and gave up a single by
Alex Gonzalez and a walk to pinch-hitter Brian Banks. Dan Plesac
loaded the bases with a walk to Pierre, and Luis Castillo singled
up the middle to drive in a run and put Florida ahead.

Ivan Rodriguez followed with a sacrifice fly off Carlos Silva to make it 5-3.

The Phillies mounted a comeback bid of their own in the eighth
when struggling reliever Braden Looper walked the first two
batters. They advanced on a sacrifice, and pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee's RBI groundout advanced Rollins to third as the potential tying run.

Chad Fox then struck out Marlon Byrd looking to end the inning.

Ugueth Urbina pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in six
opportunities with Florida. He also had 26 saves for Texas this
season.

Conine's homer hiked his batting average to .214 with three home
runs since joining the Marlins on Aug. 31.

"We know he's a much better hitter than what he did the first
couple of weeks here," McKeon said. "We thought he might be an
experienced guy who would give us that extra push over the top."

The Phillies had a chance to build on their 3-0 lead in the
seventh when they loaded the bases with two outs. Left-hander
Michael Tejera (3-3) came on and got Jim Thome to line out to
first.

Tejera earned his first win since May 28.

Game notes
Pierre stole second in the third for his 62nd stolen base,
tying Castillo's team record set in 2000. ... RHP Rick Helling has
allowed one run in 13 1/3 innings since joining the Marlins. ...
The starting time of Florida's game Saturday against the New York
Mets has been switched from 6:05 p.m. to 1:25 to accommodate
television. ... Juan Encarnacion was 0-for-19 lifetime against
Millwood before he tripled in the second.