Final

Series: Game 1 of 4

Atlanta leads 1-0 (as of 6/27)

Game 1: Monday, June 27
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Florida2
Game 2: Tuesday, June 28
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Florida1
Game 3: Wednesday, June 29
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in 14
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Game 4: Thursday, June 30
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Braves 7

(42-34, 18-22 away)

Marlins 2

(38-35, 21-16 home)

7:05 PM ET, June 27, 2005

Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Florida 

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ATL 100200040 7 - -
FLA 010000010 2 - -

W: H. Ramirez (7-4)

L: B. Moehler (2-6)

Braves gain ground on Nats in NL East

MIAMI (AP) -- Julio Franco talks about playing until he's 50. Maybe even 60, by Horacio Ramirez's math.

Franco hit his eighth career grand slam, a pinch-hit shot, and Ramirez pitched the streaking Atlanta Braves past the Florida Marlins 7-2 on Monday night in a game called during the eighth inning because of rain.

The 46-year-old Franco, already the oldest player in major-league history to hit a grand slam, sealed the victory in the eighth. Batting for Adam LaRoche against left-hander Valerio de los Santos, Franco went the opposite way -- no small feat in the Marlins' home park -- for his sixth homer this season.

"Amazing," Ramirez said. "What can you say about the guy? He's 56. I mean, 46. And, you know, he's still swinging it."

Braves manager Bobby Cox mostly marveled over the way Franco still performs.

"He is truly amazing at his age, to do what he does," Cox said. "Pinch-hitting is one of the toughest things in the world a player can do, let alone at his age. He can do it, and he can play every day as well. ... He's just a remarkable specimen of an athlete."

LaRoche, Brian Giles and Johnny Estrada -- celebrating his 29th birthday -- also drove in runs for Atlanta, which has won nine of 11 to move within 2½ games of first-place Washington in the NL East. Rafael Furcal tripled and doubled for his third multihit effort in his last five games.

Miguel Cabrera hit his 15th home run in the eighth for Florida, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. The Marlins got an RBI double from Paul Lo Duca, and Alex Gonzalez extended his career-best hitting streak to 17 games.

Shortly after Cabrera's homer, heavy rain began to fall. The game was called with one out in the eighth after a 34-minute delay -- partly because the grounds crew was never able to get a troublesome tarp in place over the infield.

Even as the rain stopped about 90 minutes after play was halted, the tarp remained spread over center field; the crew simply couldn't drag it across the muddy quagmire of an infield.

"Under the circumstances today, they wouldn't have got the field ready," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "They couldn't get the canvas on, then they couldn't get it off. ... We got washed away, I guess."

Ramirez (7-4) yielded one run and five hits in seven innings to win his fourth straight decision. He has beaten the Marlins twice in a week; Florida has managed just one run and eight hits in 12 innings against him.

In the eighth, Furcal and Giles, who also had two hits and an RBI, executed a double steal. The Marlins intentionally walked Andruw Jones, who leads the majors with 24 home runs, but Franco made them pay for it.

"For me, nothing gets old," Franco said. "You guys [are] the ones saying, 'He's the oldest guy to do this, the oldest guy to do that.' I don't feel old."

Yet even the 74-year-old McKeon couldn't resist a joke at Franco's expense.

"I used to watch him play when I was a little kid," he quipped.

Marlins starter Brian Moehler (2-6) allowed seven hits and three earned runs in seven innings. His ERA rose to just 3.05, yet he's winless in his last eight starts and tipped his cap to Atlanta afterward.

"They are the team to beat," Moehler said. "They've won the division 13 years in a row. I think we have the team that can beat them. I think we match up well with them."

A pair of run-scoring groundouts by LaRoche and Estrada in the fourth gave Ramirez a 3-1 lead, and he escaped trouble in the fifth. Gonzalez singled, and walks to Luis Castillo and Cabrera loaded the bases -- but Carlos Delgado grounded out to end the threat.

Furcal tripled leading off the game and later scored on Giles' short sacrifice fly to center. Juan Pierre caught the ball about 75 feet behind second base, but Furcal beat the throw home.

The Marlins tied it in the second on Lo Duca's double.

Game notes


It was the third home rain delay for the Marlins this season and the first rain-shortened home game of the year. ... Florida intentionally walked Jones twice; both were booed. ... During his hitting streak, Gonzalez's batting average has risen only from .272 to .280. ... Furcal saved a run in the seventh at short, going far to his left to scoop up Castillo's grounder and throwing to first just in time; Jeff Conine, who had a pinch-hit single on his 39th birthday and reached third on a throwing error, would have scored if Castillo was safe. ... It was the third time this season Furcal had multiple extra-base hits, the first since April 15.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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