ATLANTA -- Braves manager Bobby Cox will wait until Monday before discussing his playoff pitching rotation, though Jason Marquis took a step toward scrambling those plans in Saturday night's 7-3 win over the Florida Marlins.
In a matchup of two of the game's best young pitchers, the 23-year-old Marquis outdueled Josh Beckett, the Marlins' 21-year-old phenom, and triggered a pair of rallies with his bat and his feet. Marquis walked and scored in the five-run third inning, then hustled to second on the first of Marlins second baseman Dave Berg's back-to-back errors in the two-run seventh.
Thanks to Berg's miscues and right fielder Kevin Millar's third-inning error, all the Braves' runs were unearned. Likening Friday night's 20-3 embarrassment and Saturday's followup to a circus, Millar said, "We needed the dancing bears and the poodles with the extra-long ears and we'd be right there."
For the crowd of 31,826 at Turner Field expecting to see Chipper Jones, Brian Jordan and the rest of the NL East champions, no such luck.
Coming off Friday night's division-clinching celebration, Cox started only one regular (B.J. Surhoff), fielding a team of, er, irregulars.
The bench guys did the regulars proud, ending Beckett's night after six innings. They pieced together the team's 10th multi-run inning in the last four games for a 5-0 lead in the third, then put the game out of reach with two runs against Florida reliever Vladimir Nunez in the seventh.
"Some guys that haven't had a chance to play at all got in there and did extremely well," Cox said.
Marquis topped the list with an eight-inning, seven-hit, three-run outing. He threw 98 pitches, 57 for strikes, walked two, and had two strikeouts. However, while his ERA is almost a run better than Kevin Millwood's, he has a superior opponent's batting average, and more strikeouts than Millwood, Marquis may be left off the postseason roster, at least for the division series.
"Yeah, I'll be upset if I'm not on the roster, but I'll be behind the team 100 percent," Marquis said.
Wes Helms, whose three-run home in the third against Beckett (2-2) made it 5-0, may also be dropped from the postseason roster. The rookie first baseman, who also had a single in his first start since Aug. 31, could be odd man out if the team decides to keep three catchers.
"I didn't go out there to prove a point," Helms said. "I would hope to be (on the roster). I'd be let down if I wasn't. I know I can do the job and help the team win."
Marquis, who improved to 5-6, did as much damage on the base paths as he did on the mound. He opened the third with a walk and scored on Bernard Gilkey's bases-loaded single, then took advantage of Berg's slow retrieval in the seventh to take an extra base. Berg's error on Mark DeRosa's roller followed, then Keith Lockhart delivered an RBI double to make it 6-1.
The Marlins, humiliated Friday, offered little resistance to Marquis, who beat them last week in Miami. The only time in five innings they advanced a runner beyond first base was the third, when a walk to Andy Fox, a balk, and Beckett's bunt presented Florida with a chance to get on the board. But Marquis coaxed a pop up from Berg, then whiffed Derrek Lee to end the threat, and set down eight of the next nine batters.
"My ways are changing," Marquis said. "I was always a guy who wanted to strike everybody out, but I'm learning that if you keep the ball down and get ground ball outs, you can get the same results more quickly."
Marquis invited trouble with a two-out walk to Cliff Floyd in the sixth, Preston Wilson followed with a line single to center, and Mike Lowell's single made it 5-1.
In the eighth, Floyd followed Lee's single with a triple into the right field corner, Preston Wilson singled to make it 7-3, then following a visit to the mound by pitching coach Leo Mazzone, Marquis coaxed Mike Lowell to tap into an inning-ending double play.
"It was a little weird," Marquis said. "Sometimes you might have a tendency to let down (after clinching). But in my mind, I try to approach every start the same."
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