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Third baseman will pinch hit in playoffs

9/28/2003

MIAMI (AP) -- The Florida Marlins are glad to have Mike Lowell
back for the start of the playoffs, even if it's only as a pinch
hitter.

Lowell returned to the lineup Sunday after missing four weeks
with a broken left hand, and he went 1-for-4 to help Florida beat
the New York Mets 4-0.

The All-Star third baseman doubled and scored a run. But when
the Marlins begin their best-of-5 playoff series Tuesday at San
Francisco, Lowell will be on the bench, manager Jack McKeon said.

"I don't think it would be fair to Mike or the other 24 guys to
stick Mike out there when he wasn't totally ready to play," McKeon
said. "He's still a little rusty, but he's coming along quickly."

Lowell said he would have understood McKeon's reasoning even if
he had hit two home runs Sunday.

"I'm not at 100 percent," he said. "But I'm good enough to be
able to contribute, I think."

Rookie Dontrelle Willis (14-6), scheduled to pitch Game 4
against the Giants, tuned up by limiting the Mets to three hits
over five innings. He won his final three decisions.

"It was good to be able to throw strikes and have some momentum
going into the playoffs," he said.

The victory gave the Marlins a 91-71 record, which is exactly
what team president David Samson predicted on opening day. After
the game, Samson was sitting at McKeon's desk, smoking one of the
manager's cigars.

"They knew they had to hit 91 on the nose, and boy did they
ever do it," Samson said as a grinning McKeon stood in the
background.

Florida's Braden Looper, whose recent struggles cost him the
closer's job this week, pitched a scoreless ninth for the second
game in a row, completing a four-hitter.

The injury-plagued Mets finished last in the NL East for the
second straight season. New York's 66-95 record was its worst since
going 59-103 in 1993.

"This has been a miserable year," Al Leiter said. "Coming out
of spring training, we thought we'd do some good things, but it
didn't happen."

The Mets' Jay Bell went 0-for-4 in his final game. He's retiring
after a 20-year professional career, including 15 in the majors.

"It feels great to take the uniform off," said Bell, whose
parents drove down from Tampa to attend the game. "It has been a
great 20 years. It has been more than I could ever ask."

Mike Glavine, brother of Mets left-hander Tom Glavine, singled
in the ninth for his first major league hit.

"That was probably the highlight of the day," manager Art Howe
said.

Jeremy Griffiths (1-4) allowed all four runs and seven hits in four innings. He went 0-3 with a 9.95 ERA in his final three
starts.

Florida, which clinched the NL wild card Friday, went ahead on
Derrek Lee's RBI single in the first. Todd Hollandsworth singled
home Lowell in the third and scored on Alex Gonzalez's 18th home
run.

Lowell flied out in the first inning, then hit a broken-bat
double in the third that landed on the foul line. He also fouled
out and struck out, but he made a nice defensive play to throw out
Vance Wilson.

"I wasn't expecting to hit three home runs today," Lowell
said. "I thought I accomplished what I wanted to."

If and when Lowell rejoins the lineup, left fielder Jeff Conine
will likely go to the bench, with rookie Miguel Cabrera moving from
third base to left field.

"I don't want it to become a problem or distraction," Lowell
said. "I think it's a good problem. If all three of us feel good,
that's a good thing for the team."

Game notes
Marlins CF Juan Pierre played in all 162 games and scored
his 100th run Sunday. Teammate Luis Castillo, who didn't play,
finished with 99. ... Pierre stole his major league-leading 65th
base in the second inning. ... The Mets had an NL-high 506 games
started by rookies. ... Ty Wigginton set Mets rookie records for
hits (146), extra-base hits (53) and doubles (36).