Originally created 09/13/03

Braves blow 8th-inning lead



MIAMI - Little more than two weeks before the playoffs, Braves fans might feel like pitching their TV sets out the window and taking up a less stressful pastime, like croquet or knitting.

In a punishing start to a six-day, two-city excursion, the bullpen turned Mike Hampton's outstanding effort to ashes Friday night.The Marlins tied the game with two runs in the eighth and won it, 5-4, with a run off reliever Ray King in the ninth before 25,622 fans at Pro Player Stadium.

"That's one you've got to win," manager Bobby Cox said.

The Marlins, who managed just two runs off Hampton in seven innings, now lead the wild card race by 1 1/2 games over the Phillies, who lost to the Pirates 8-4on Friday.

Hampton offered another terrific performance, stranding runners in scoring position three times, but all his good work disappeared in a hurry.

Jaret Wright turned a 4-2 lead into a 4-4 tie in the eighth, giving up Ivan Rodriguez's leadoff double, a walk, Derrek Lee's run-scoring grounder and a game-tying wild pitch - a performance that won't help his chances of being added to the postseason roster.

"I just didn't get it done," Wright said. "I thought I had the stuff I needed, but it didn't work out tonight."

King opened the home half of the ninth by hitting Alex Gonzalez with a pitch. Gonzalez advanced to second on pitcher Braden Looper's bunt, then leadoff man Juan Pierre sent a single into right field, scoring Gonzalez with the game-winning run.

"We literally threw the game away," said King, who evened his record at 3-3. "It's a tough one to lose."

The Braves had a walk and two hits in the first, including Andruw Jones' 34th home run, a two-run shot into the seats in left-center, but the most surprising development was the sight of pitcher Brad Penny flinging his glove to the ground and stalking to the clubhouse.

After Javy Lopez fouled off Penny's 24th pitch, the 25-year-old righthander told manager Jack McKeon he was done. Word from the trainers room was that Penny suffered a hyperextended right elbow and will undergo an MRI today.

For Jones, the home run was his first since Aug. 31 and gave him a career-high 105 RBI. When Chipper Jones, who has 98 RBI, finally reaches 100, the Braves will boast three outfielders with 100 RBI, the first time that's happened in the majors since the 1984 Red Sox did it with Tony Armas (123), Jim Rice (122), and Dwight Evans (104).

Florida's bullpen was everything Atlanta's pen wasn't for the next 8 1/3 innings. Rick Helling, released by the Orioles last month and signed by the Marlins, was summoned after Penny departed and pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three singles. Chad Fox, the former Brave, was next on the mound and he set down the six Braves he faced.

The only run the Marlins relief corps allowed came in the eighth, when Gary Sheffield, who delivered the Braves' first run with a sacrifice fly in the first, knocked in pinch runner Jesse Garcia with a single through the left side against reliever Ugueth Urbina.

Sheffield's hit made it 4-2, but that wasn't enough on this night.

"It stinks, especially the way we lost," Chipper Jones said. "We've just got to get better in certain areas. (With John Smoltz pitching the ninth) 99.9 percent of the time the game is over. But the fact of the matter is, we don't have him and somebody has got to step up."