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Sixth Atlanta loss in last seven games

MIAMI (AP) -- Juan Pierre's home run was unexpected. Jeff Conine's might have been, too.

Pierre hit his first career leadoff homer and Conine homered for
the first time in a month to help the Florida Marlins beat the
slumping Atlanta Braves 6-0 Wednesday night.

Brad Penny pitched six shutout innings to snap a three-game
losing streak and send the Braves to their sixth loss in seven
games. Atlanta also has lost 10 of 14, falling six games under .500
for the first time since 1990, when it finished 65-97.

"We better start playing ball or things could get away from
us," first baseman Julio Franco said. "We don't want to go down
by 12 games at the All-Star break, because things could get real
ugly around here. These next games are important, because we at
least want to stay in the pack."

The Marlins handed the Braves their fifth consecutive series
loss.

Carl Pavano overcame a rough start to beat the Braves 4-3
Tuesday, and Penny (7-5) was even better a night later.

He allowed four hits, a walk and struck out seven, winning for
the first time in five starts. He lowered his ERA from 2.83 to 2.65
and improved to 7-3 against Atlanta.

"He's pitched a hell of a lot better than his 7-5 record,"
Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "This guy is on a mission. He's
going to put some big numbers up before his career is over."

The Braves managed one baserunner in each inning, but couldn't
get anyone past second base.

Billy Koch, Matt Perisho and Ben Howard each pitched an inning
of hitless relief to finish Florida's eighth shutout.

Penny had lost three in a row, and the Marlins had dropped four
straight with him on the mound. It wasn't that he pitched poorly,
giving up 13 earned runs in the four outings, but he received
little run support.

"The thing I like about him is he stays under control," McKeon
said. "That's a sign of maturity. He doesn't experiment out there.
He goes after you. He's like Nolan Ryan: `Here it is boys, try to
hit it.' "

Penny got plenty of help Wednesday, backed by three homers.

Conine's fifth was a three-run shot in the fourth inning that
gave the Marlins a 5-0 lead. It was his first since May 24 against
Arizona, a span of 22 games.

Conine entered the game hitting .167 with runners in scoring
position and was batting .218 overall in June. The numbers had him
calling it the worst slump of his career and had others wanting the
Marlins to bring up Joe Dillon from Triple-A Albuquerque to replace
him.

"I don't mind the average, but when you're not driving in runs
and you're a run producer, that's tough to swallow," Conine said.
"I can't make up lost ground, but hopefully I can make a
difference the rest of the way."

Pierre hit his second homer of the season; his other was an
inside-the-parker. His shot down the right-field line landed in the
first row. He pumped his fist twice rounding first and didn't stop
smiling until long after he touched the plate.

"Balls don't usually come off my bat like that," said Pierre,
who tied his career high for homers in a season. "I've got to
enjoy that one a little bit. ... My power numbers are coming early
this year."

Hee Seop Choi also homered in the second against John Thomson.

"I can't explain it," said Thomson, who has given up a
team-high 12 homers. "It seems that when I make a mistake now, it
goes out of the ballpark. It's not like you can get away with it
and it goes for a double. Now my mistakes are winding up in the
seats."

Thomson (5-6) lost his fourth straight start. He gave up five
runs on five hits and a walk and struck out four.

After losing five of six to Atlanta early in the year, the
Marlins have won two in a row. Florida will go for a sweep
Thursday, looking for its first three-game winning streak since the
end of May.

"Maybe this is the start of something good," McKeon said.

Game notes
Braves OF Charles Thomas made his major league debut, pinch-hitting in the fifth and striking out. ... Pierre's home run was Florida's 14th leadoff homer and first since Dave Berg did it Aug. 27, 2001. ... New York Giants QB Jesse Palmer, best known for his appearance on ABC's reality dating show "The Bachelor," threw
out the ceremonial first pitch.