MIAMI -- It all looked so painfully familiar, Braves fans wereundoubtedly thinking they had mistakenly hit the rewind button on theirVCRs.
Hit? Did someone say hit?
Certainly not the Braves, who offered a shockingly poor performanceMonday night as a followup to their most dramatic win of the season,dropping back into a first-place tie atop the NL East with a 1-0 lossto the lowly Florida Marlins before a flag-waving crowd of 10,470 atPro Player Stadium.
"To win a game like we did in New York and come back and lose 1-0,it stinks," right fielder Brian Jordan said. "You'd think (Sunday'sgame) was a momentum-changer and we'd come out and score some runs. Butwe're consistent. It's to the point now where everybody is pressing." On a night when John Burkett allowed an unearned run in seveninnings but saw his offense unable to support him, the Braves lost forthe sixth time in eight games on this trip.
With 12 games left, including six more with the Marlins, theBraves share the division lead for the first time since Sept. 1. TheBraves and Phillies now have identical 80-70 records.
"It's pretty simple," said Burkett, whose fourth loss in a rowdropped his record to 11-12. "Whoever wins the most games from here onout will win it. It's a three-team race coming down the stretch."
Catcher Javy Lopez's throwing error in the second accounted for theMarlins' only run. He was trying to nail Preston Wilson, who openedthe inning with a double, but his hurried throw sailed far to the leftfield side of third base, allowing Wilson to trot home.
"I wasn't going to throw, but at the same time he was so far fromthe base I took my chances," Lopez said. "Things didn't work out theway I wanted them to. Shocker."
The state of the Braves' offense? Five Atlanta runners made it asfar as second. Just two Braves advanced as far as third. The Braveshave now scored three runs or fewer six times in eight games. And itwas the eighth time they have been shutout this season, one more thanlast year.
"It gets frustrating when we get in situations to score and wedon't," center fielder Andruw Jones said. "We have to be moreselective, and still be aggressive. It sounds easy, but it's not."
Until the eighth, the Braves, who have lost eight of 13 games tothe Marlins this season, had more than one hit in an inning just once.Marlins winner Brad Penny (9-9) held the Braves to six hits and didn'twalk anyone in 7 1/3 innings, striking out five. His only nervousmoments came in the fourth and eighth, when the Braves rallied withconsecutive base hits.
But after Julio Franco and Chipper Jones opened the fourth withsingles, Penny induced Jordan to tap into a double play, and retiredKen Caminiti on a pop up. Then following singles by Lopez and pinchhitter B.J. Surhoff in the eighth, reliever Vic Darensbourg bailedPenny out, coaxing another double play from pinch hitter Bernard Gilkeyto end the threat.
"You hit into four double plays, you're going to have troublescoring runs," said left fielder Chipper Jones, who had three of theBraves' seven hits. "We just couldn't get the big one when we neededit."
Shortstop Andy Fox's error on Franco's tapper fueled a Braves'rally in the ninth. Chipper Jones followed with a single, then closerAntonio Alfonseca's tailing fastball hit Jordan in the left wrist toload the bases. Caminiti, who has just one RBI in 17 games since Aug.25, sent Alfonseca's second pitch to third baseman Mike Lowell, whostepped on the base and relayed the ball to first to complete thegame-ending double play.
"We've lost some pretty strange games down here," Chipper Jonessaid. "But it's a shame losing one that way."
The news following the game that Marlins phenom Josh Beckett won'tstart tonight's game because of a blister on his right hand wastempered by Jordan's sore wrist. Jordan was certain no bones werebroken, but X-rays were taken. The results were not immediatelyavailable.
Reach Bill Zack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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