With no shot at the postseason, Florida was forced to play spoiler. On this date, September 27, 2001, the Marlins broke through against Atlanta starter Greg Maddux for the first time all season, defeating the first-place Braves and helping tighten the National League East race in the process.
Florida came into the game 70-82 overall, six games behind Atlanta with nine to play and with Philadelphia and New York both wedged in between. The Marlins also came in 0-3 against the Braves in games started by Maddux, who was still going strong in his age-35 season. In his three previous starts against Florida that season, the veteran had allowed just two runs in 20 innings, and considering the Marlins had very little to play for at this point, it seemed likely Maddux would cruise to yet another strong outing with the Braves still in a tight race with the Phillies and Mets for the NL East title.
Yet Florida didn't lie down, finally finding success against Maddux in an eventual 7-1 win. The Marlins didn't exactly hit Maddux around, as the righty went six innings and allowed four earned runs, but it was more than they had produced in his three previous starts, and it was enough for the win too, thanks in large part to Florida's bullpen.
Left fielder Cliff Floyd's double and right fielder Kevin Millar's single in the bottom of the first drove in a run apeice, quickly giving Florida the lead. First baseman Derrek Lee added another tally with a sac fly in the second inning, and third baseman Mike Lowell's solo shot in the third made it 4-1 after three innings. Maddux tightened things up from there, but the Marlins' bullpen made the lead stand. Put in a tough spot after starter Matt Clement was forced to exit with no outs in the second inning after taking a liner off his wrist, Florida's relief corp answered the bell with eight scoreless innings, including three each from Juan Acevedo and Vladimir Nunez. Shortstop Andy Fox's three-run homer in the eighth put the game out of reach, ensuring the Marlins' 71st victory. With the loss, Atlanta remained just one game ahead of Philadelphia and found itself just three games ahead of New York with nine games to play after the Mets' win the same day. While Florida was essentially already out of contention, this game was evidence that the Fish could still have an impact on the NL East race.
The game also featured several milestones: it was Maddux's 500th career start; Floyd tied Gary Sheffield's single-season Marlins record for extra-base hits with 76 (Floyd finished with 79); the Marlins' two homers gave them 160 for the year, tying the team record set the previous season (they finished with 166); and Lowell tied his career high with 91 RBI (he finished with an even 100).
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