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Braves 7, Marlins 1

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ATLANTA (AP)

Brian McCann was really down on himself.

He's feeling a lot better now.

McCann came through with a three-run homer that may go down as one of Atlanta's biggest hits of the season, helping the Braves snap a four-game losing streak and move a step closer to the playoffs with a 7-1 victory over the Florida Marlins on Tuesday night.

McCann's homer came one night after he struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning of a tie game. Florida went on to win 5-4 in the 12th, handing the Braves their longest skid of the season.

''Last night, I was the big downer,'' said McCann, who homered in the sixth with the Braves trailing 1-0. ''It's nice to come through.''

Dan Uggla added a three-run shot in the seventh - giving him a career-best 34 homers on the year - but he said McCann's drive was the one that really loosened the Braves up.

''That took a lot of pressure off the whole team,'' Uggla said. ''That was not just a three-run homer. That could be one of the biggest homers this year.''

The Braves, whose lead over St. Louis in the NL wild-card standings remained at 4 1/2 games, held a private meeting before the game in hopes of shaking things up.

It worked. Uggla drew a one-out walk from Brad Hand (1-7), Matt Diaz singled to right and McCann came through with a towering shot over the center-field wall for his 24th homer.

Peter Moylan (2-1) claimed the win by getting the final out in the top half after taking over for starter Mike Minor.

The Cardinals kept pace in the playoff race, beating Pittsburgh 6-4, but Atlanta has only 13 games left.

The Braves had gone 36 innings since their last lead, struggling especially to drive home runners from third with less than two outs. McCann was one of the culprits.

''Last night was rough on me,'' he said. ''To come back and help the team get a win is huge for me.''

With his team having lost seven of nine to take away some of its comfort in the playoff race, manager Fredi Gonzalez called a private meeting before batting practice. Chipper Jones described it as ''basically a circling of the wagons'' designed to rouse the Braves from their worst stretch of the season.

McCann's homer was a huge relief. He came into the game mired in 5-for-28 slump (.179) and had gone nearly two weeks since his last long ball.

''He's our rock,'' Uggla said. ''We depend on him a lot. That's a big load on his shoulders.''

Hand has walked 34 in 56 innings, and the free pass to Uggla started his trouble in the sixth.

''He pitched good for five innings. But it's a nine-inning game,'' manager Jack McKeon said. ''Inexperience, really. You get the lead, you've got to close. You've got to shut 'em down if you want to be a winner.''

Uggla's homer turned it into a laugher. Jones led off with a single to center, Freddie Freeman walked and Uggla teed off on a 1-2 pitch from Brian Sanches, driving it deep into the left-field seats to eclipse his previous career high - 33 homers with the Marlins last season.

''Our pitchers should know Uggla,'' McKeon said. ''But we always seem to make a mistake to him.''

Considering he struggled through the first two months under .200, Uggla has produced quite a turnaround. He's homered four times off his former team.

''That's why you play the whole season,'' he said. ''You've just got to stay positive, stay the course, keep on working and don't get down on yourself.''

Michael Bourn added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Minor lasted 5 2-3 innings for the Braves. He allowed four hits, including Emilio Bonifacio's run-scoring single in the fifth that broke a scoreless tie.

Donnie Murphy led off with a walk - one of four issued by Minor - and Matt Dominguez followed with a single to center that put runners at first and third. Hand sacrificed Dominguez to second, and Bonifacio came through with a liner to right.

Dominguez had to hold at third on Bonifacio's hit and remained stranded there when Omar Infante's flyout to left wasn't deep enough for the runner to tag. Minor got out of the jam on Greg Dobbs' liner to third.

The rookie left-hander is looking as though he's ready to help in the postseason, especially if the Braves are without injured starters Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.

''I feel better and better every time I go out there,'' Minor said. ''I feel like more a part of the team than just a fill-in. I think they kind of trust me now a little bit.''

NOTES: The Braves announced before the game that assistant general manager Bruce Manno will now oversee the player development department as well. In addition, Ronnie Richardson was promoted to director of minor league operations and John Coppolella moved up to director of professional scouting. ... Florida quietly released 38-year-old OF Mike Cameron after Monday's win over the Braves, deciding to go with younger players for the final two weeks of the season. ... Florida OF Logan Morrison had his right knee drained but an MRI showed no serious damage. He hasn't played since crashing into a wall at Pittsburgh last Friday.

Tagged: Braves, Marlins, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Emilio Bonifacio, Mike Minor

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