Marlins put fighting aside with eight-run outburst as Helms holds off Braves in 9th

MIAMI -- A day that began with so much emotion and squabbling in the clubhouse ended in the best way possible for the Florida Marlins.

A party at home plate.

Wes Helms hit a game-winning homer, Dan Uggla had a two-run shot after challenging teammate Hanley Ramirez's effort, and the bickering Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 8-7 on Wednesday night.

Helms hit the 3-2 pitch off Mike Gonzalez (3-4) well over the left-field scoreboard, sending teammates pouring out of the dugout in celebration, with even Ramirez joining in late.

"I think it definitely boosts your level of intensity," Helms said of his homer. "When you win in dramatic fashion, it just gives everybody confidence. It makes everybody feel good. You go home, you leave the field today with great feelings."

That's hardly how it started for Florida.

Ramirez said before the game that he "got some people upset" for leaving Tuesday's game early with an injury, then Uggla openly argued with the NL batting leader in the clubhouse that forced a closed-door team meeting.

"I'm glad it happened," said Uggla, adding Ramirez is like a brother. "I'm glad it's over with. I'm glad we've moved on, and I think we're stronger and closer because of it."

Brett Carroll hit a bases-clearing double, and Ross Gload finished a home run shy of the cycle to help Florida end a day of infighting with a win.

Yunel Escobar homered in the top of the ninth off Leo Nunez (4-4) to tie the game. Pinch-hitter Chipper Jones added a three-run double.

But the real fireworks happened well before the first pitch.

After Uggla heard Ramirez's comments while sitting at his locker nearby, he accused Ramirez of a lack of desire and effort to win. Uggla also said the shortstop wasn't caring because he's already secured a $70 million, six-year contract. Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez then held a closed-door meeting.

Frustrations had been building with the Marlins losing two straight. They remain five games behind Colorado for the NL wild card, but moved a game back of the Braves for second in the division.

"It's September baseball," Gonzalez said. "Two teams fighting for the wild card and the division or whatever it is. The games are ticking away and emotions are going on. It's good to see our guys respond."

After Brian McCann hit a sacrifice fly, Adam LaRoche had an RBI single in the first inning that gave the Braves a 2-0 lead.

Gload got things started in the third with a double, and Uggla followed with his 25th home run of the season to tie it.

The Braves took advantage of a Marlins error in the fifth, when Uggla misfired on a throw to second to start what should have been a routine double play. Escobar later drove in McCann with a single to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.

"It felt like we won that game but we didn't," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Things went sour quickly for the Braves.

After starter Javier Vazquez loaded the bases in the sixth, reliever Kris Medlen gave up a three-run double to pinch-hitter Carroll that started a five-run inning to put Florida in front 7-3. Jones tried to get the Braves back with a three-run double of his own in the seventh.

Reliever Tim Wood then loaded the bases by hitting Matt Diaz, who started to walk toward the mound as the dugouts and bullpens began to clear before retreating. Kiko Calero entered to get Martin Prado to pop out and end the threat.

"All that I said when I first got out of the box was, 'find a clue,'" Diaz said about the near confrontation. "Ronny [Paulino] did the right thing, any catcher would do, which was to stand up and tell the runner to get to first and shut your mouth."

Game notes
Marlins 1B Nick Johnson (strained hamstring) was scheduled to play five innings with Class-A Jupiter on Wednesday night and could be activated for the weekend series against the Nationals, Gonzalez said. ... Braves OF Nate McLouth (strained left hamstring) had a workout Wednesday and is scheduled to play with Single-A Rome on Thursday, the team said. McLouth could be activated for the weekend series against Cincinnati. ... Florida has never had a player hit for the cycle.