Series: Game 1 of 3

Cincinnati leads 1-0 (as of 9/26)

Game 1: Tuesday, September 26
Game 2: Wednesday, September 27
Game 3: Thursday, September 28

Reds 5

(78-79, 36-40 away)

Marlins 3

(76-81, 40-36 home)

    7:05 PM ET, September 26, 2006

    Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Florida 

    123456789 R H E
    CIN 022001000 5 10 1
    FLA 000101010 3 11 0

    W: R. Franklin (6-7)

    L: D. Willis (12-12)

    S: S. Schoeneweis (4)

    Reds within striking distance of Cards; Marlins out of playoff race

    MIAMI (AP) -- The Cincinnati Reds are still playing meaningful games thanks to their three-game winning streak and the St. Louis Cardinals' swoon.

    David Ross hit two home runs into the upper deck and the Reds stayed within striking distance in the NL Central with a 5-3 victory over the Florida Marlins on Tuesday night.

    Third-place Cincinnati is 2½ games behind division-leading St. Louis, which has lost seven straight. The Cardinals, who lost 7-5 to San Diego on Tuesday, are 1½ games in front of Houston, which beat Pittsburgh 7-4 for its seventh straight win.

    "We're right in the thick of the race," Ross said. "A lot of people counted us out when we had our lull, but we still have high expectations. This has been fun, and we're still right there."

    The loss eliminated Florida, which has lost four straight, from a wild-card berth. The Marlins recovered from an 11-31 start to get within two games of the wild-card lead on Sept. 11.

    "Even with the odds, I still believed we had a chance," first-year Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "It hurts."

    The Reds, meanwhile, have revived their playoff hopes thanks to the Cardinals' losing streak.

    "We're battling and trying to stay alive," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "We're doing everything we can, playing everybody we have."

    Ross' second home run of the game, and 21st of the season, was a two-run shot which bounced off the seats in the upper deck in left and gave the Reds a 4-0 lead in the third.

    His homer to open the second inning landed in the first row of the upper deck in left. Norris Hopper followed with an infield hit and eventually scored on Chris Denorfia's RBI-single.

    "I didn't see the first one land, but I saw where the second one wound up," Ross said.

    Denorfia finished with four hits and Hopper had three.

    "I don't know how I did that, but it just happened to be one of those games where everything worked out," Denorfia said.

    Matt Belisle, making his first start of the season after 28 relief appearances, pitched 3 2/3 innings for the Reds and gave up one run and three hits.

    "Matt gave us everything he had," Narron said. "He hadn't started a game all year, and he took it to the very limit."

    Belisle was lifted after allowing Dontrelle Willis' two-out RBI-single in the fourth that made it 4-1.

    "It felt good just to get a start," Belisle said. "It was disappointing not to go further into the game, but that's a result of throwing too many balls and too many pitches."

    Ryan Franklin (6-7) relieved Belisle and worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win. Scott Schoeneweis pitched one inning for his third save.

    Willis (12-12) gave up five runs and seven hits, struck out three and walked five in five innings.

    "I was terrible, I didn't pitch my game but I tried to keep it close," Willis said.

    Despite the Marlins' elimination from the postseason, Willis still wants to pitch in Sunday's regular-season finale against Philadelphia, which is one game behind Los Angeles in the wild card.

    "I take a lot of pride in taking the ball," Willis said. "You definitely don't want to see someone celebrate when you can't celebrate."

    The Reds regained their four-run lead on Royce Clayton's RBI-double in the sixth.

    Matt Treanor's sacrifice fly in the sixth brought Florida within 5-2.

    Pinch-runner Reggie Abercrombie scored from third on pitcher David Weathers' fielding error in the eighth to make it 5-3, but Weathers retired Miguel Cabrera on a called third strike for the final out of the inning with the tying runs on base.

    Game notes

    Ross has three multi-homer games this season and five for his career.... Florida's loss ensures the end of three consecutive winning seasons. The Marlins (76-81) can finish no better than .500 by winning their final five games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press