NL East Wrap: Braves win; Marlins top Mets

NL East Wrap: Braves win; Marlins top Mets
July 19, 2011, 4:51 am
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Braves 7, Rockies 4

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DENVER -- Derek Lowe enjoyed the sun beating down on him and was glad it went straight into Todd Helton's eyes at just the right moment.

Feeling right at home on an unusually warm night in Colorado, the sunshine actually helped Lowe and the Atlanta Braves beat the Rockies 7-4 Monday night.

Lowe's ground ball to third base in the second inning resulted in a two-run error on first baseman Todd Helton, who lost third baseman Ty Wiggington's throw in the setting sun, igniting the Braves' fifth win in five tries over the Rockies this month.

The 92-degree heat felt more like the Deep South than the Mountain West, and Lowe loved it.

"Playing in Atlanta, you can't really go any place that's hotter than Atlanta," he said. "I think it's an advantage."

And playing in Colorado this time of year, there's a window of 10 minutes or so when pitchers don't dare try to pick off a runner at first and the infielders usually think twice about throwing it there if they can help it.

The setting sun just peaks right over the Rocky Mountains and into the first baseman's eyes.

Helton said there's no other ballpark that gives him fits as Coors Field does this time of year.

"It's one of those things that's a worse-case scenario, a nightmare: bases loaded, pitcher's hitting," he said. "But I couldn't see it. I put my glove up where I thought the ball was going to go. It's just a bad break."

Once on first, Lowe saw exactly what Helton was talking about.

"When I was at first base, I mean, you can't see," Lowe said. "He was kind of mad at the guy that threw it. He was mad that he threw it to first base. When you play here all the time you probably know early on don't throw it to first base (at that time). It's definitely a stadium fault.

"When we were over there, we were talking about it, you can't see. Even if the pitcher threw over there, you can't see. And it was a huge part of the game. You take those two runs away and who knows what would have happened?"

Lowe, who handcuffed the Rockies for 6 1-3 innings, joked that he should have been given a base hit and two RBIs. After all, he argued, if an outfielder loses the ball in the sun and it drops to the grass, that's not an error.

Jason Hammel was walking off the mound toward the dugout, figuring he'd induced just the ground ball he wanted from his counterpart.

"Yeah, it was bad luck. But that wasn't really the story of the game," said Hammel, who lacked control and couldn't locate any of his pitches.

Mets 4, Marlins 1

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NEW YORK -- There's more to it than just Jack McKeon. There's the timely hitting, the stingy pitching, the proper execution with runners on base.

Now matter how anyone tries to explain it, though, the Florida Marlins simply look like a new team under their old manager.

Clay Hensley came off the disabled list to win his first major league start in three years and the resurgent Marlins beat the New York Mets 4-1 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 10 games.

"We're interested in winning," McKeon said. "We're not going to worry about hurting anybody's feelings. I would think that everyone on this club would be interested in winning, and that's the way it's going to be. If someone doesn't like it, that's too bad."

Mike Stanton hit a two-run double and slumping Mike Cameron followed with an RBI single for Florida, on the cusp of escaping the NL East cellar.

The Marlins improved to 15-9 under the 80-year-old McKeon, who took over after Edwin Rodriguez abruptly resigned late in the team's 1-19 June swoon.

"We never thought we were going to the park to lose a game, but Jack kind of adds a little life to the dugout, keeps it loose in there with his sayings, and does a good job of managing the game," outfielder Logan Morrison said.

In the makeup of a May 17 rainout, Hensley (1-2) allowed one hit over five scoreless innings against a depleted Mets lineup. It was his 41st big league start -- but first since July 24, 2008, for San Diego. The right-hander made 20 relief appearances this season before a sprained shoulder sidelined him June 1.

Willie Harris' first-inning double was the only hit given up by Hensley, who struck out three and walked two in an 84-pitch outing. Michael Dunn, Edward Mujica, Randy Choate and Leo Nunez completed the three-hitter.

For the diminutive Hensley, it was his first win since Aug. 31 against Washington -- and first as a starter since Aug. 16, 2007, with the Padres against Colorado. As long as he's effective, Florida plans to keep Hensley in the rotation, which is minus injured ace Josh Johnson.

"It's definitely a different beast than coming out of the bullpen and I haven't done it in a while, so I was pretty fired up that first inning," Hensley said. "But as the game started going on I kind of settled in and relaxed a little bit more."

Nationals 5, Astros 2

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HOUSTON -- Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson told Jason Marquis on the plane ride to Houston that he needed him to pitch nine innings against the Astros on Monday.

He almost got what he wanted.

Marquis pitched eight solid innings, Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman homered and Zimmerman drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning to give the Nationals a 5-2 win over the Astros.

Laynce Nix added a pair of insurance runs with a single after Zimmerman's hit in the ninth.

The Nationals were working with a depleted bullpen after starter Tom Gorzelanny left Sunday's game after the third inning with an injured ankle.

"My mentality is always nine," Marquis said. "Obviously, with the bullpen having to eat up some innings yesterday, I obviously wanted to go as long as possible to freshen up their arms."

Roger Bernadina singled to start the inning before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Danny Espinosa. Zimmerman's grounder rolled just out of reach of a diving Jeff Keppinger and into the outfield to allow Bernadina to score and chase Houston starter Jordan Lyles (0-5).

"I didn't hit it great, but I found a hole and it worked," Zimmerman said.

The Astros' rookie allowed five hits and four runs with six strikeouts in the longest outing of his career to remain winless in his ninth career start.

"I feel sorry for him losing that ballgame," Johnson said of Lyles. "He pitched a great ballgame. Pitched his heart out."

Lyles is staying positive while he waits for his first win.

"If I continue to have more outings like I did today, they will come often and a lot," he said of victories. "I have to continue to get better and keep making good pitches like I did tonight."

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