MIAMI (AP) -- A rout turned into a thriller when the Florida
Marlins nearly blew a big lead against Philadelphia.
Ricky Ledee and the Phillies now need help -- and plenty of it -- to make the playoffs.
Thanks to Chad Fox, the Marlins held on. Now they have their
biggest lead of the season in the NL wild-card race.Philadelphia scored five runs in the eighth before Fox ended the
threat with two runners aboard, and the Marlins won 6-5 Wednesday
night to edge closer to their first playoff berth since 1997.Florida leads the Phillies and Houston Astros by three games
with four to go.The Phillies said the game was one they had to win, and they
rallied after falling behind 6-0. But Fox struck out Chase Utley to
end the eighth, and Ugueth Urbina pitched a perfect ninth."We were not going to lose," Fox said."That would have been a tough one to swallow if we had let that
get away," said Florida's Jeff Conine, who homered for the second
game in a row.The Marlins can clinch a playoff berth as early as Thursday, and
they can eliminate Philadelphia by completing a sweep of their
three-game series. Brad Penny (13-10) is scheduled to pitch against
the Phillies' Randy Wolf (16-9)."If I'm in their clubhouse, it's time to get going," Fox said.
"But they're not going to get it done here."Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal all but conceded the race to
the Marlins."If we win every game from here on out, we probably still won't
get in," he said. "It's theirs to hold on to."The Marlins started strong Wednesday, and by the sixth inning
they literally had the Phillies ducking out of the way.Third baseman Placido Polanco scrambled to avoid being beaned by
a broken bat on a run-scoring single by Miguel Cabrera.Juan Encarnacion's 18th home run put Florida ahead to stay, and
Josh Beckett took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning.Beckett (9-8) threw 122 pitches, allowing six hits and four
runs, and sent the Phillies to their fourth consecutive loss."Beckett dominated us," manager Larry Bowa said. "That's the
best stuff we've seen all year. He was overpowering."The young right-hander's next start could come in the first game
of the playoffs Tuesday at San Francisco."We haven't opened the champagne yet," Beckett said. "I just
want to be in one of those celebrations. Hopefully everything will
work out."The Marlins won for the 13th time in their past 15 home games,
and they beat Brett Myers (14-9) for the fourth time this season.But Philadelphia made it harrowing for Florida. The Phils'
eighth-inning rally began with consecutive singles by Utley,
pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee and Marlon Byrd. Polanco's two-run double
finished Beckett.Michael Tejera gave up a two-run single to Bobby Abreu and
walked Jim Thome. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch by Fox, and
Conine made a running catch of Lieberthal's sacrifice fly in deep
left to make it 6-5.Pat Burrell flied out and Jimmy Rollins walked before Fox struck
out Utley."It got a little scary at the end," Marlins manager Jack
McKeon said. "I didn't like that."Urbina, who has supplanted struggling Braden Looper as the
Marlins' closer, earned his fifth save in seven opportunities with
Florida. He also had 26 saves in the American League this season.Florida led 2-0 early, then added four runs in the sixth. Ivan
Rodriguez singled and scored on Derrek Lee's triple, setting the
stage for one of the strangest hits this season.Cabrera broke his bat bouncing a grounder to third, and the
barrel flew toward a startled Polanco. As he moved to his right to
avoid the bat, the ball rolled past to his left and Lee scored."The barrel of that bat is coming right at his head," Bowa
said. "It's a reflex action. He stays in there and it splits his
head open. Nothing you can do about it."Myers departed, and Carlos Silva retired Encarnacion, then gave
up a homer to Conine to make the score 6-0.Conine hit a three-run homer to spark Florida's comeback victory
Tuesday. This time he earned a curtain call from the crowd of
28,520 -- the first of his career, and the Marlins' first this
season."I'm not a showy guy, but the guys pushed me out there,"
Conine said.He's 7-for-17 with three homers in five games against the Phils
since joining Florida in a trade Aug. 31.The 23-year-old Myers, making his final start of the season, was
bidding to become the youngest Phillies pitcher to win 15 games
since Curt Simmons in 1950. Instead he gave up five runs and seven
hits in five-plus innings.
Conine improved to 5-for-7 lifetime against Myers. ...
Myers finished with a 7.78 ERA this season against Florida in four
starts, all losses. ... The Phillies dropped to 6-12 against
Florida. ... The Marlins have committed two errors in their past 16