Marlins gain speed and a win to bring series home

Thursday, October 2, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO --The Florida Marlins got the split they so desperately needed at Pacific Bell Park, and did it by getting away from the small ball that sent them on this improbable playoff journey.

Juan Encarnacion homered and Juan Pierre wound up with a bases-loaded double on a misplay by Jose Cruz Jr. in a decisive three-run sixth as the Marlins defeated the sloppy San Francisco Giants 9-5 in Game 2 Wednesday.

After an energized Barry Bonds helped the Giants take a 4-1 lead, Sidney Ponson couldn't hold it. Pierre had four hits as the Marlins rallied to send the best-of-five series back Florida at one apiece.

Game 3 is Friday in Miami. Kirk Rueter pitches for San Francisco against Mark Redman.

Pierre said before this series started that the Giants hadn't yet seen the wild-card Marlins at their best. He led a 15-hit effort, a day after Florida was held to just three.

Carl Pavano, the winning pitcher when Florida clinched the wild card, earned another important victory by getting two outs.

Most of all, Florida kept Bonds from doing major damage. Rookie Dontrelle Willis, Florida's probable Game 4 starter, did his part by relieving in the eighth and retiring Bonds on a foul out.

On a day the 39-year-old Bonds showed unusual energy in left field and on the bases, the Marlins again made sure the slugger wouldn't beat them at the plate. After Bonds doubled to drive in a run in the first, he was walked twice.

Bonds made a sliding catch in left field and hustled home from first base on Edgardo Alfonzo's double.

But Bonds was about the only one who looked like himself.

On Pierre's fly ball in the sixth, Cruz tripped where the grass meets the warning track in right field and the ball flew over him.

Cruz has been one of the team's most reliable defensive players for a team that led the NL West from day one on the way to winning 100 games under first-year manager Felipe Alou.

Sure-handed first baseman J.T. Snow also let a ball roll through his legs, setting up a run for the Marlins, and center fielder Marquis Grissom let a line drive bounce off his glove.

Losing pitcher Joe Nathan, a 12-game winner as a reliever this year, was tagged for three runs on four hits in the Giants' shaky sixth, with Encarnacion's shot tying it at 5. Jeff Conine, Alex Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Lenny Harris all singled and Jason Christiansen relieved.

Christiansen immediately gave up the crazy double to Pierre.

Conine's groundout in the seventh made it 8-5. Derrek Lee added an RBI single in the eighth.

Alou has described over and over again how dangerous Florida's lineup is, and he was right. Seven different Giants pitchers failed to contain Florida's lineup.

The Giants took a 5-4 lead in the fifth after pinch-hitter Pedro Feliz tripled and scored on Snow's single. Then, the Marlins began their impressive comeback.

The man who bats behind Bonds -- Alfonzo -- has become a big focus in this series. Alfonzo is 4-for-8 in two games and hit a two-run double in the fourth.

During batting practice Wednesday, Bonds asked first-base coach Luis Pujols to throw him some pitches out of the strike zone. He then hit a low-and-inside pitch down the right-field line and into the corner for an RBI double in the first.

Bonds made impressive diving, sliding grab on a line drive by Alex Gonzalez in the second.

Aboard on a four-pitch walk in the Giants' three-run fourth, Bonds sprinted from first on Alfonzo's double and nearly caught Rich Aurilia, who went back to tag up at second in case the ball was caught. Aurilia crossed home mere steps in front of Bonds.

The Marlins didn't get near the outing from Brad Penny that Josh Beckett gave them in Tuesday's 2-0 loss, but it didn't matter.

Penny lasted four innings and allowed four runs on four hits, struck out five and walked one.

That walk? To Bonds, of course.

Ponson insisted he would forget about his frustrating finish to the regular-season and start new in his playoff debut.

The right-hander, who ended the year with a three-start losing streak, gave up back-to-back singles to start the game, then settled down to retire 12 of the next 13 Florida batters before giving up three runs in the fifth.

Notes: Giants OF Marvin Benard underwent a 20-minute arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. When Benard did not make the playoff roster, he pushed up the operation in an effort to be fully recovered by spring training. ... Pierre, who had 65 stolen bases this season, stole third in the fifth.

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