SAN FRANCISCO Juan Pierre is sure everyone ruled out his wild-card Florida Marlins in their playoff matchup with the San Francisco Giants.
And suddenly, somehow, the Marlins now have the momentum heading home.
Juan Encarnacion homered and Pierre wound up with a bases-loaded double on a misplay by Jose Cruz Jr. in a decisive three-run sixth as Florida rallied to beat sloppy San Francisco 9-5 Wednesday, evening the series at one game each.
''Getting down 4-1, I think they were confident they would get us again,'' said Pierre, who had four hits and drove in three runs. ''We put the pressure on them and kept the pressure on.''
Pierre said before this series started that the Giants hadn't yet seen the Marlins at their best. San Francisco won five of six meetings during the regular season.
Pierre led a 15-hit effort, a day after Florida was held to just three. The Marlins overcame a three-run deficit in the fifth.
''A lot of people doubted this team and thought we couldn't win,'' said Lenny Harris, who delivered a key pinch-hit single in the sixth. ''We showed them a little something that we're not afraid of them.''
The Marlins got the split they so desperately needed at Pacific Bell Park, and did it by getting away from the small ball that sent them on this improbable playoff journey.
After an energized Barry Bonds helped the Giants take an early lead, Sidney Ponson couldn't hold it. Pierre and the Marlins sent the best-of-five series back to Florida at one apiece.
Game 3 is Friday in Miami. Kirk Rueter pitches for San Francisco against Mark Redman.
Braves 5, Cubs 3
ATLANTA The Braves were so desperate for a win they called on John Smoltz in the eighth inning. That didn't work.
Instead, it took a little-known infielder with football running through his blood to keep Atlanta from the brink of another postseason meltdown.
Mark DeRosa, filling in for injured second baseman Marcus Giles, hit a two-out, two-run double in the eighth to lead the Braves past the Chicago Cubs 5-3 Wednesday night.
Atlanta evened the best-of-five NL division series at one game apiece. Game 3 is Friday night at Chicago's Wrigley Field, with Greg Maddux starting for the Braves against Mark Prior.
The Braves' vaunted lineup was overshadowed by a guy who doesn't usually start. DeRosa took over at second base for Giles, who had a deep bruise on his left leg after tumbling over first base in Game 1.
The Cubs walked Rafael Furcal intentionally to get to DeRosa, who made them pay by lining a 1-2 pitch from Dave Veres to the wall in left-center.
''You understand that they're intentionally walking Furcal to get to you,'' DeRosa said. ''You try to use that anger.''
Standing on second, the former Penn quarterback pounded his hands together.
''I hope the Cubs don't take offense. I meant nothing by it,'' DeRosa said. ''I've got the football mentality still. We needed this game going to Chicago.''
As an added bonus, Giles appeared as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and came through with a run-scoring single that put the Braves ahead 3-2.
Anxious to protect the lead, Braves manager Bobby Cox called on Smoltz in the eighth even though he missed nearly a month at the end of the season with a sore elbow.
''You play this game with somewhat of a desperate mentality,'' Smoltz said. ''We had to have this win.''
The closer had worked two innings only three times all season, the last on July 23. But Cox was also mindful that Smoltz never got a chance for a save in the 2002 postseason, when the Braves lost to the Giants in the opening round.
That was just another postseason failure for Atlanta, which has 12 straight division titles but only World Series title in that span.
The Cubs weren't intimidated by Smoltz, who has 100 saves over the past two seasons. Eric Karros and pinch-hitter Randall Simon hit back-to-back singles before another pinch-hitter, Tom Goodwin, tied it up with a sacrifice fly.
''I didn't have my best stuff,'' Smoltz said. ''These type of games are sometimes won more mentally than with stuff. Fortunately, I was able to make enough pitches in the ninth inning to get three outs.''
Smoltz actually began his redemption in the bottom half of the eighth, getting down a bunt with two strikes after Vinny Castilla walked. It was Smoltz's second at-bat of the season.
''When I went up there, I really wanted to swing,'' he said with a grin. ''But I knew I could get the bunt down.''
That led to Furcal's intentional walk and DeRosa's two-run double. That put Smoltz back on the mound with another lead to protect. He didn't blow it this time.
The Cubs went down in order, Smoltz pumping his fist when Mark Grudzielanek popped out to end the game.
''Obviously, you'd like to be up 2-0, especially after winning the first game,'' Karros said. ''I still feel like we've got as good a chance as they do.''
Braves starter Mike Hampton overcame a terrible start to pitch six solid innings before a Turner Field crowd of 52,743 the most ever for a postseason game in Atlanta.
For the second night in a row, thousands of Cubs fans boosted the standing-room-only turnout.
Those fans were in a frenzy when Chicago got off to roaring start. Without making an out, the Cubs had a 2-0 lead and the bases loaded. Will Cunnane was already throwing in the Braves bullpen, trying to get loosened in a hurry on an unseasonably cool Georgia night.
''I just couldn't get into a rhythm,'' Hampton said. ''I guess I had to get beat up before I woke up.''
Karros struck out swinging. Ramon Martinez took a called third strike. Damian Miller flailed at strike three to end the inning, bringing the Braves' fans to their feet.
Hampton struck out the side again in the second, tying a postseason record with six consecutive Ks.
''It's like we were teeing off on him,'' Karros said. ''Then he started hitting his spots. There's a reason he was an effective pitcher for them this season.''
Hampton left for a pinch-hitter after the sixth, having allowed four hits, walked five and struck out nine.
After managing only three hits in Game 1, the Braves pounded Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano for 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings knocking him out of the game with the last one.
Furcal hit a liner off Zambrano's right leg, the ball ricocheting all the way into foul territory along the first-base line for an infield hit.
Zambrano didn't appear seriously hurt, but Cubs manager Dusty Baker decided to call in Kyle Farnsworth.
Hampton looked rusty in his first postseason appearance since the 2000 World Series, when he pitched Game 2 for the New York Mets against the Yankees.
Kenny Lofton and Grudzielanek started with walks, and Sammy Sosa followed with a drive that nearly cleared the center-field wall. The ball caught the top of the padding and fell back into play for an RBI double instead of a three-run homer.
The Cubs made it 2-0 when Grudzielanek beat the throw after Castilla came home on a grounder to third.
The Braves cut Chicago's lead to 2-1 in the bottom half of the first. Chipper Jones drove in the run with a fielder's choice grounder, barely beating the relay throw as the Cubs attempted to turn two.
Andruw Jones, dropped from fifth to sixth in the order, tied the game at 2-all in the fourth with an RBI single.
Notes: Martinez started at shortstop for the Cubs in place of Alex Gonzalez. Martinez had a better career average against Hampton than Gonzalez .273 to .143. ... Giles was hurt tumbling over the bag in Game 1 after hitting a solo homer. Cox hopes he'll be able to play in Game 3. ... The previous record for a Braves postseason game was 52,529 for Game 3 of the 1996 division series against Los Angeles, when the team still played at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Peninsula Clarion ©2014. All Rights Reserved.