MIAMI - It had the feel of a weekend softball game between competing taverns. Just enough fans to cover the seats directly behind home plate. No lines for hot dogs and beer.
The Marlins did the majority of the entertaining Monday night, blasting Kevin Millwood off the mound within five innings for a 5-1 win over the Braves before an announced crowd of 6,103 at Pro Player Stadium. The Dolphins will reclaim their turf this weekend, but for a day the Marlins are king with a split the four-game series with the NL East champs.
"I'd much rather have it happen tonight then in October," said Millwood, whose shot at 20 wins vanished with his first loss since July 26. "I didn't feel like I got into any kind of groove. It was one of those nights you don't want to run into very often."
Brad Penny, whose bobblehead doll was the promotion du jour, made the most of his second start against the Braves this year with six innings of four-hit, one-run pitching.
There were no highlights for the Braves after the first inning. Only two runners advanced beyond first base after the first against Penny and a pair of relievers, and Andruw Jones, filling in for cleanup hitter Chipper Jones, struck out three times.
"Penny pretty much shut us down," left fielder Darren Bragg said.
The Braves had not seen Penny since April, but they needed no introduction to Florida's 6-foot-4 righthander. He beat them in his fourth start of the season in Atlanta, then spent six weeks on the disabled list with right bicep inflammation.
Mark DeRosa singled with one out in the first and stole second, barely beating catcher Mike Redmond's throw. Gary Sheffield, who was in a 2-for-18 slump, followed with a single through the middle for the Braves' only run.
Matt Franco doubled with two outs in the fourth, but Javy Lopez went down swinging to end the threat.In the seventh, Franco walked and Lopez reached base safely when third baseman Mike Lowell knocked down his smash and threw high and wide of second.
Penny gave way to reliever Abraham Nunez, who set down Castilla, Darren Bragg, and pinch hitter Chipper Jones.
"How many guys do you face who throw 98 almost every pitch?" manager Bobby Cox said. Let's put it this way, (Penny) did real good."
In the fourth, Kevin Millar rifled a double into the left field corner, extending his career-high hitting streak to 22 games, and one out later Derrek Lee sent a game-tying single to center. Preston Wilson then singled, and Redmond's slow roller turned into a run when second baseman DeRosa's relay throw skipped past first baseman Matt Franco, allowing Lee to score.
"My fault," Franco said. "I've got to come off the base and make sure I block it."
Penny opened the next inning with a single, and successive walks to Encarnacion and Millard loaded the bases for Lowell, who lashed Millwood's 0-and-2 delivery past third baseman Vinny Castilla to make it 4-1. Wilson's sacrifice fly sent in Millar.
"You don't like to lose, but let's be real, what was on the line?" Chipper Jones said. "(Penny) had a good night on the mound and we lost. We'll face him again in five days and try to turn the table."