<
>

In Wet-lanta, McConnell gets first majors win

ATLANTA (AP) -- J.D. Drew got all he could from each at-bat, and
when he made an out, good things still happened.

He homered twice and Sam McConnell earned his first major league
win to lead the Atlanta Braves past the Florida Marlins 9-6 on
Wednesday night.

In five trips to the plate, Drew drove in runs during four of
them. He also got RBI on a forceout and a sacrifice fly.

"You never know what you're going to get," Drew said. "You do
what you can, whether it's walking, getting a sacrifice fly,
broken-bat RBI, staying out of a double play, things like that.

"And then when you do get a good pitch to hit, put a good swing
on it, and hopefully good things happen."

It was the seventh career two-homer game for Drew -- his first
since Oct. 3, 2001 -- and he tied a career high with five RBI for
the Braves, who moved within 3½ games of first in the NL East. The
Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies are tied for the top spot.

The game was delayed by rain for 75 minutes in the second
inning, and rain fell throughout most of the rest of it. On Tuesday
night, the teams waited out a 3½-hour delay before the start, and
the game ended at 1:24 a.m. More showers are in the forecast for
the series finale Thursday.

"In my opinion, the game should never have started," Florida
starter A.J. Burnett said. "It's not like the rain just snuck up
on us. We knew it was coming."

McConnell (1-0) allowed one run on one hit through 3 1/3
innings. He was called up from Triple-A Richmond on June 25 and
made his debut that night against Baltimore. In his two previous
outings, he compiled a 13.50 ERA.

After the game, he got the lineup card as a souvenir, and he
also had a box of game balls waiting at his locker.

"It's very special," said the big left-hander, who grew up a
Braves fan in Ohio. "It's just kind of happened so fast. I'm
loving every second of it."

Kevin Gryboski relieved McConnell with two on in the seventh and
allowed a bloop single by Mike Redmond to make it 7-6, but
pinch-hitter Lenny Harris flied to left to end the threat.

John Smoltz pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 15 chances.

"The guy that saved us was McConnell," Atlanta manager Bobby
Cox said. "We're finally getting the chance to see him. His stock
is going up by the second."

Mike Lowell and Miguel Cabrera both homered for the Marlins, who
lost for the fifth time in seven games.

"That's life," Lowell said. "We were swinging the bats well,
but they were swinging them better."

Neither starting pitcher came back after the delay, which
probably was a good thing for Burnett. He gave up three runs on
five hits in only one inning.

His counterpart, Paul Byrd, was only slightly better. He was
charged with two runs on three hits in two innings, then turned a
3-2 lead over to Travis Smith.

Smith allowed five straight hits during one stretch in the
third -- including a two-run homer to Cabrera -- and let Florida go
ahead 5-3. But Darren Oliver (2-3), who took over for Burnett, gave
it right back in the bottom half.

Estrada doubled and moved to third on a single by Julio Franco.
A groundout by Andruw Jones brought in Estrada, and Franco scored
on the first career triple by rookie Charles Thomas.

Finally, pinch-hitter Mike Hessman singled in Thomas for a 6-5
lead.

"We had trouble getting them out," Florida manager Jack McKeon
said. "I don't believe there's a mental block for us. We're still
in first place."

Game notes
Atlanta 1B Adam LaRoche, on the 15-day disabled list with a
separated shoulder, went 2-for-4 with a homer during a rehab
assignment Wednesday night with Triple-A Richmond. He might return
to the Braves on Friday. ... Lowell and Cabrera hit back-to-back
homers in the Marlins' 5-4 victory Tuesday night.