Series: Game 3 of 3

Atlanta won 3-0

Game 1: Friday, September 24
Game 2: Saturday, September 25
Game 3: Sunday, September 26

Marlins 3

(79-76, 37-38 away)

Braves 6

(92-64, 47-31 home)

    1:05 PM ET, September 26, 2004

    Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia 

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    FLA 100000011 3 8 2
    ATL 00500100 - 6 9 0

    W: J. Thomson (14-8)

    L: D. Willis (10-11)

    No World Series defense for Marlins

    ATLANTA (AP) -- The Florida Marlins blamed the weather and the schedule. Manager Jack McKeon said his starting pitchers haven't delivered.

    Florida's surprising 2003 season was followed by a dismal defense of its second World Series title, and the Marlins were eliminated from postseason contention Sunday with a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

    "Yeah, I'm disappointed, certainly," McKeon said. "You go back to the starting pitching, what have we got in results the last two weeks? From the starters, not too good. We haven't gotten many wins out of them."

    Including a spot start by David Weathers, Florida starters have only three wins in their last 16 games. With Florida already resigned to its fate, the Marlins joked in the clubhouse as rookies were hazed after the loss.

    Logan Kensing and Chris Aguila tried to fit into orange bikini cheerleaders outfits for the flight to Montreal, drawing an occasional whistle and giggle from veterans, who otherwise showed little emotion after their sixth straight loss.

    Last year, the Marlins won the NL wild card at 91-71 and went on to upset the New York Yankees in the World Series. Sunday's loss dropped Florida to 79-76 with seven games to go -- not enough to catch the wild-card leading Chicago Cubs (87-68).

    Still, the season was more entertaining than the last defense, when Florida slumped to a 54-108 record in 1998 after a salary purge dismantled the 1997 champions. No NL team has won back-to-back World Series since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.

    "In this game you've got to improve each year," McKeon said. "The only guy who really stepped up is Pavano."

    Carl Pavano is eligible to become a free agent during the offseason and is likely to be pursued by big-money contenders.

    Dontelle Willis dropped to 10-11 after going 14-6 last year and winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. He has won one of seven starts since Aug. 14, and his ERA jumped from 3.30 last season to 4.01 this year.

    "Hey, the potential is there," McKeon said of his starting pitchers. "The record book is full of guys with potential. You've got to do it on the field. Potential gets you fired real quick."

    The Marlins fell out of postseason contention by going 11-14 in September. They were 18-8 in September last year.

    "It's tough, because we're right there," Willis said. "I feel like every game we're one or two plays away. The same thing happened today. The base hit that Chipper (Jones) had kind of opened the game up."

    Florida had to play three doubleheaders in September, including two with the Cubs due to games postponed by Hurricane Frances. Since Sept. 7, the Marlins have played 23 games in 20 days, going 9-14.

    "It's not an excuse, it just makes it tougher," reliever Rudy Seanez said. "Your pitchers get tired and your infielders get tired."

    Even Braves manager Bobby Cox took note of the unusual late-season schedule, which includes 10 straight games on the road to finish the year. Atlanta swept the Marlins for the second time this season and went 14-5 against them.

    "They had a tough go with the hurricane and the doubleheaders," Cox said. "It takes a toll on you."

    Jones drove in two runs for Atlanta, raising his total to 95 with six games remaining. Jones, trying to join Sammy Sosa as the only NL players with nine straight 100-RBI seasons, had just 34 at the All-Star break after playing hurt for much of the first half.

    Braves starter John Thomson (14-8) allowed one and four hits and one run in seven innings.

    Miguel Cabrera's RBI single put Florida ahead in the first before Willis gave up five runs in the third. Charles Thomas hit an RBI single before Jones, who had been 1-for-16 with the bases loaded, hit a two-run single. Julio Franco, who was 3-for-4, followed with a two-run double for a 5-1 lead.

    Willis walked three in the inning, including Eli Marrero ahead of Jones.

    "Chipper was the one guy we didn't want to see coming up," McKeon said. "I could live with Marrero getting a hit. Chipper is a money player."

    Eddie Perez hit an RBI double in the sixth. Florida scored late on Jeff Conine's RBI double in the eighth off Horacio Ramirez and Juan Pierre's run-scoring single in the ninth against Ramon Colon.

    Game notes

    Ramirez, recovering from tendinitis in his left shoulder, made his first appearance since May 25. ... Pierre stole his 44th base in the first inning. With two hits, he extended his team record to 207. ... Willis gave up as many as six runs for only the second time in 16 starts.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press