Braves bring out broom vs. Mets
By The Associated Press
Maybe the Florida Marlins are for real.
Andrew Miller pitched seven impressive innings and Florida blanked the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks 4-0 Thursday night to finish an unexpected three-game sweep in a showdown of first-place teams.
The Atlanta Braves also completed a sweep, winning their fourth straight against the struggling New York Mets as Tim Hudson outpitched Johan Santana.
Brad Lidge had a big night in Houston, saving Philadelphia’s 7-5 victory over his former team, and Ken Griffey Jr. broke a long home run drought with No. 598 of his career.
But it’s the Marlins who have been baseball’s biggest surprise this season.
“I don’t mind if they count us out until they can’t anymore,” Miller said. “That doesn’t affect the way we play. If we’re the underdog all along, that’s fine.”
The series against Arizona was the most impressive yet by the Marlins. The team with baseball’s lowest payroll built its improbable NL East lead with the help of a weak early schedule, but there was nothing fluky about the way it handled the NL West leaders.
The 23-year-old Miller (4-3) had a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed only one runner to reach second base. Acquired in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit, Miller had an ERA of 9.12 on May 1, but it’s now down to 5.33 and he has won four of his past five decisions.
“This is a big series for us confidence-wise,” said Wes Helms, who drove in two runs with a pinch-hit double. “This is something to build on. It shows this team we can do big things. We not only can beat the small teams; we can beat the big teams.”
In other NL games, it was: Atlanta 4, New York 2; Pittsburgh 8, Milwaukee 4; and San Diego 8, Cincinnati 2.
The Diamondbacks arrived in Miami with the best record in the big leagues, but they totaled only 17 hits in the three games and were outscored 10-3. The shutout was the first against them this season.
“We’re just struggling,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We’re going to have to fight through it.”
Dan Haren (5-3) allowed eight hits and four runs in 6 1-3 innings.
The Marlins, last in the majors in fielding, committed no errors in the series and repeatedly came through with clutch hits. And long-apathetic South Florida is beginning to notice its upstart team: The crowd of 13,233 for the final game was the largest this week.
Baseball fever, Miami style.
“The only way you get people in the stands is to win,” Helms said. “You win, they’ll come. It might take another month, but they’ll come.”
At Houston, the Phillies hit Roy Oswalt hard and got home runs from Ryan Howard and pinch-hitter Pat Burrell to win their third straight.
Howard also had an RBI double and Lidge improved to 12-for-12 in save chances this season by pitching a scoreless ninth. He retired slugger Lance Berkman on a game-ending popup with a runner on.
Lidge saved 72 games during six years in Houston, but was traded away last offseason after blowing 14 save chances over the past two. It all started with Albert Pujols’ mammoth homer in Game 5 of the 2005 NL championship series, but Lidge looked more like the dominant closer he was before that fateful hit.