MIAMI — With rainy weather, apathetic fans, unsettled ownership and losing records, the Florida Marlins have provided comic relief in recent seasons.
Look who's laughing now.
The surprising Marlins beat the New York Mets 4-3 Friday night to clinch their first playoff berth since winning the 1997 World Series. They'll face the NL West champion Giants in a best-of-5 series beginning Tuesday in San Francisco.
The Marlins trailed Philadelphia in the wild-card race last Saturday, but pulled away with five consecutive wins. With the win, Florida eliminated the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, still vying for the NL Central title, from wild-card contention.
Leadoff batter Juan Pierre, a catalyst all season, filled that role again in the clinching victory. He stole two bases to set a team record with 64, singled three times to reach a career high with 203 hits and played a part in Florida's first three runs.
Carl Pavano (12-13), the No. 5 starter on a strong pitching staff, limited New York to six hits and three runs in 7 1-3 innings. Ugueth Urbina got his sixth save.
The Marlins' rapidly expanding bandwagon attracted 33,215 fans, the largest crowd of the week and the fourth-largest of the season in Miami.
Aaron Heilman (2-7) took the loss.
BRAVES 6, PHILLIES 0: At Philadelphia, Horacio Ramirez pitched six sharp innings, and Atlanta moved closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs Friday with a 6-0 victory over Philadelphia in the final night game at Veterans Stadium. The Phillies, atop the NL wild-card standings a week ago, lost their sixth straight game.
EXPOS 5, REDS 1: At Cincinnati, Tomo Ohka pitched a five-hitter and Brad Wilkerson homered as Montreal beat Cincinnati. The Expos' 82nd victory guaranteed them a second straight winning season under manager Frank Robinson. Montreal had not posted consecutive years over .500 since 1992-94.
BREWERS 12, ASTROS 5: At Houston, Richie Sexson homered twice and doubled as the Milwaukee Brewers beat Houston, dropping the Astros a half-game behind idle Chicago in the NL Central. The Pittsburgh-Cubs game at Wrigley Field was rained out earlier in the day. A doubleheader was scheduled for Saturday. Sexson hit an RBI double during a six-run second inning. He hit a solo homer off Rick White in the fifth and a two-run shot in the seventh off Kirk Bullinger. Sexson has 45 homers this season, tying his own franchise record set in 2001. Gorman Thomas also hit 45 homers in 1979.
DIAMONDBACKS 7, CARDINALS 6: At Phoenix, Shea Hillenbrand's leadoff home run ignited a three-run sixth inning and Arizona eliminated St. Louis from the NL Central race. Manager Tony La Russa wasn't in the dugout to see his team fail to reach the postseason for the first time since 1999. He and catcher Mike Matheny were serving the first of two-game suspensions stemming from recent run-ins with umpires.
GIANTS 10, DODGERS 1: At San Francisco, Barry Bonds hit his 658th home run, and the San Francisco Giants clobbered the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bonds moved within two homers of tying his godfather Willie Mays for third on the career list. He sent a 1-0 pitch from Kazuhisa Ishii (9-7) an estimated 392 feet into the seats in right-center for his 45th homer of the season, matching Philadelphia's Jim Thome and Milwaukee's Richie Sexson for the NL lead.
PADRES 5, ROCKIES 0: At San Diego, Adam Eaton and four relievers combined on an eight-hitter and San Diego opened their final series at Qualcomm Stadium by beating Colorado. After playing 35 years in the Mission Valley stadium, the Padres will move into their new ballpark near the waterfront, Petco Park, next spring.