Marlins beat Mets, try to keep pace with Phillies

Cody Ross slumped into a cozy chair in the visiting clubhouse and, with many of his Florida teammates, watched the ninth inning of the NL East-leading Philadelphia’s game.

No matter the first bus back to the hotel was leaving in 20 minutes, the Marlins are in a playoff race. And boy, is it fun.

Ross hit a three-run homer in a four-run first inning, Ricky Nolasco shut down the Mets into the seventh and the bargain-basement Marlins kept pace in the division with a 6-3 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look up there after every out in every inning. I just look up there and see what’s going on,” Ross said of scoreboard watching. “I know (the Phillies) tied it up, that they were up by two, and I knew right before we made the final out they were up by one. I mean you got a lot of time on your hands in the outfield.

“All that doesn’t matter if we’re not doing our own business,” he said before tuning into the end of the Phillies‘ 6-5 win that kept their six-game lead in the division in tact.

Dan Uggla homered and Nick Johnson had a long RBI double as Florida, with a majors-low $37 million payroll, took their second straight from New York.

The past two Septembers, Florida played a big role in the Mets‘ late-season collapses. This season, the Marlins are chasing a playoff spot. They entered Wednesday 5 1/2 games behind Colorado in the wild-card race.

“It’s completely different, but I think we take it the same no matter what situation we’re in,” Nolasco said. “We’re just fortunate we’re in a situation to make the playoffs.”

The Mets, on the other hand, have been done in by a parade of injuries to a host of stars and the closest they have come to fielding a full squad since May was before batting practice, when many of the sidelined players including Jose Reyes, Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado were in uniform for the team photo – a harsh reminder of what could have been in New York.

Facing a star-laden Mets lineup in April, Nolasco went 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in two starts against them. This time he cruised into the seventh.

“Back in those starts, if I remember correctly, I just couldn’t make that pitch to get out of the big inning,” he said. “I feel like a different person from that time.”

Nolasco (11-8) gave up a leadoff hit to Angel Pagan then didn’t give up another hit until Pagan doubled with two outs in the sixth. In between, Nolasco induced nine groundballs and two flyouts.

“He kept us off balance and did a great job,” New York’s Jeff Francoeur said.

Nolasco faltered in the seventh, walking David Wright to start the inning. Carlos Beltran singled, then Daniel Murphy hit an RBI double. Nolasco was removed after Francoeur’s sacrifice fly. Another run scored on a groundout.

In 6 1-3 innings Nolasco allowed three runs, four hits and two walks. He struck out four in improving to 5-1 since the All-star break after getting off to such a bad start that he was sent to the minors in late May.

“Unbelieveable,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He did a terrific job for us. The four-run first inning was big to get him settled down.”

Leo Nunez worked a perfect ninth for his second save of the series and 20th of the season.

With one out in the first, Johnson, Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu singled to load the bases. Uggla followed with an RBI fielder’s choice, beating out a potential double play to keep the inning going.

“You got to give Danny credit there for first of all hustling and beating out the throw and saving the inning otherwise we’re up 1-0,” Ross said.

Ross then connected on a 1-1 pitch from Pat Misch, sending a high fly several rows deep in left field for his 21st of the season. It was Ross’ first homer since Aug. 8, at Philadelphia.

Uggla hit his 26th homer into the stands in left-center with one out in the sixth, the Marlins‘ second hit off Misch (1-2) since the first inning. Johnson doubled off the wall near the 415-foot sign in right-center against reliever Lance Broadway in the seventh to make it 6-0.

Beltran, who returned from a knee injury Tuesday night, gave Mets fans a scare before the second inning, when a trainer and manager Jerry Manuel visited the center fielder during warmups. Beltran ran off the field and down the tunnel only to return several minutes later.

Afterward, Manuel said Beltran wanted his ankle taped.

“He’s OK. But I think I’m going to give him a day off tomorrow,” Manuel said. “It’s almost like spring training for him.”


Gonzalez said Rick VandenHurk, who left Tuesday’s game with a sore side muscle, will throw in the bullpen on Thursday to see if he is able to make is next scheduled start. … The Mets‘ Murphy hit his 30th double.