Ross' 3 Homers Leads Marlins to Victory

Tuesday, September 12th 2006, 6:26 am
By: News On 6

Cody Ross, Anibal Sanchez, Dan Uggla. The rookie-laden Florida Marlins certainly don't have the biggest names in baseball.

Don't count them out, though. The surprising Marlins are right in the middle of a playoff race _ and they're playing as well as anybody around.

Ross hit three homers and drove in seven runs Monday night to tie a pair of team records, upstaging Sanchez in his first start since his no-hitter and leading Florida to a 16-5 rout of the visiting New York Mets.

``A lot of guys don't want to see those guys in the playoffs,'' Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd said. ``They're feeling pretty good about themselves.''

The Marlins, who are 17-5 since Aug. 20, had a season-high 20 hits and set a club record with five homers. They also moved within two games of idle San Diego in the NL wild-card race.

After pitching a no-hitter against Arizona last week, Sanchez (8-2) allowed four hits and struck out eight in seven innings. Uggla was a career-best 5-for-5 with three runs, Ross had four hits and Miguel Cabrera finished with three RBIs while taking over the NL batting lead at .340.

Sanchez is unbeaten in his past seven starts. His bid to match Johnny Vander Meer's feat of throwing consecutive no-hitters ended on Floyd's second-inning homer.

But by then, the Marlins had four runs _ and they never stopped hitting.

``A good day all around,'' manager Joe Girardi said.

In other NL games, it was: St. Louis 7, Houston 0; Chicago 8, Atlanta 3; Pittsburgh 4, Milwaukee 3; and Washington 7, Arizona 6.

Ross has 12 home runs this season, 10 with Florida _ and seven in games started by Sanchez. Entering the night, Ross had only one homer in his last 87 at-bats.

``Anibal told me a couple days ago, 'Man, every time I pitch, you hit a home run,''' Ross said. ``After the first one I hit tonight, I thought about it and kind of chuckled. He doesn't need that much run support. He hasn't lately. But any time we can go out there and score like that against one of the best teams in the major leagues, it's huge.''

Uggla and Josh Willingham also connected for Florida.

Carlos Beltran hit his 40th home run and Floyd added a two-run shot for the Mets, whose magic number for clinching the NL East title for the first time since 1988 remained at four.

Ross, who was with the Dodgers and Cincinnati before coming to Florida on May 26, hit a three-run drive in the first inning, then added two-run homers in the sixth and seventh. He tied Mike Lowell's franchise record for homers in a game and became the third Marlins player to have seven RBIs, the first since Gary Sheffield in 1995.

``Anibal should maybe take him out to dinner,'' Girardi said. ``I've said all along, when Cody plays, he usually makes an impact. Cody has the ability to do a lot of special things. ... He is a great piece that we picked up.''

Cabrera went 2-for-3 and moved one point ahead of Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez in the batting race.

``There's a lot of games left,'' Cabrera said. ``The most important thing right now is winning.''

Unlike Sanchez, Uggla matched a 68-year-old major league record.

His homer was No. 24 on the season, tying the Yankees' Joe Gordon for the most by a rookie second baseman. Gordon set that mark in 1938, the same year Vander Meer threw his two gems.

Mets starter Dave Williams (5-4) lasted only three-plus innings, giving up nine earned runs and 11 hits.

Cardinals 7, Astros 0

At St. Louis, Chris Carpenter (14-6) pitched a six-hitter for his third shutout this season, tying Arizona's Brandon Webb for the major league lead.

Ronnie Belliard, who had been in an 0-for-20 slide, had four RBIs for the Cardinals, who lead the NL Central by five games over Cincinnati and six over the Astros.

Cubs 8, Braves 3

At Atlanta, Derrek Lee homered twice and Jacque Jones hit a three-run shot as Chicago avoided a four-game sweep with only its fourth win in 22 games.

Lee hit a three-run homer in the third to chase John Smoltz (12-9) and added a solo shot in the fifth off Ken Ray. The Braves are 5 1/2 games behind wild-card leader San Diego, with five other teams also ahead of them, and their streak of 14 straight division titles would end with one more loss or Mets win.

Pirates 4, Braves 3

At Pittsburgh, Zach Duke (9-13) struck out a season-high seven in eight innings, allowing two runs and five hits, and Chris Duffy hit a two-run single off Doug Davis (10-10) for a 4-2 lead in the fourth.

Nationals 7, Diamondbacks 6

At Phoenix, Jose Vidro drove in four runs and drew a bases-loaded walk from Luis Vizcaino (4-5) that put Washington ahead in the ninth. Nick Johnson hit a two-run single and Chad Cordero earned his 25th save.

Damion Easley, Conor Jackson, Chris Snyder and Chris Young homered for Arizona.