MIAMI (AP) - For five innings, the Florida Marlins were unable to come up with a big hit. Then they stopped reaching base at all.
The final 13 Marlins went down in order, and they lost 4-0 on Tuesday night to the Atlanta Braves.
``They don't give us too much to hit,' Florida manager Jack McKeon said. ``What they give us to hit, we can't do much with.'
Rookie Randall Delgado pitched five innings for his first major-league win, and the Braves put the brakes on their recent skid.
The Braves retained a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL wild-card race over the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the New York Mets 11-6 on Tuesday. The margin was 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25.
``The games have a lot more meaning to them,' Florida catcher John Buck said. ``They definitely have a lot more to lose than we do.'
Delgado (1-1), making his sixth career start, pitched around five hits and lowered his ERA to 2.70. Cristhian Martinez and Anthony Vavaro both retired six consecutive batters to complete the 16th shutout for the Braves, which ties for third-most in the majors.
``They have good pitching, no doubt about it,' said Logan Morrison, who went 0 for 4 as Florida was shut out for the 12th time.
One night after blowing a ninth-inning lead in a loss, the Braves won for only the seventh time in their past 19 games.
``Tonight was a big game,' catcher Brian McCann said. ``There are always teams fighting for that playoff spot; that's why this time of year is the best time in sports. We sit at the top of the wild card. We've just got to continue to win games.'
Freddie Freeman hit his 20th home run. Alex Gonzalez hit his 15th but left the game in the sixth inning with a strained right calf. His status is day to day.
Martin Prado drove in a run and had three of the Braves' 11 hits. Michael Bourn contributed his 56th stolen base, most in the majors, and his 34th double.
The Marlins went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position, leaving them 0 for 11 in the series in those situations. They fell to 1-7 at home against Atlanta this year.
Anibal Sanchez (8-9) lost to the Braves for the third time in as many starts this year. He allowed three runs in five innings but retired the last 11 batters he faced.
It looked as though the Braves' recent slump might continue when they put runners at second and third with no outs in the first and failed to score.
But they bounced back with three runs in the second. Gonzalez hit the first pitch for a homer, and Jason Heyward doubled. Bourn hit a one-out double and scored on Prado's single.
Freeman homered off Brian Sanches in the sixth to make it 4-0.
The Marlins loaded the bases with one out in the third, but shortstop Gonzalez turned a soft liner by Morrison into an unassisted double play. Braves pitchers saw to it that there were no Florida threats in the late innings.
``I'm proud of the guys for the way they bounced back tonight,' Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones said. ``I still would have liked to have seen us score seven or eight and make it a laugher, but we'll take it.'
Notes: The Braves sent minor-league RHP Eliecer Cardenas to the Pittsburgh Pirates to complete the Aug. 31 trade for OF Matt Diaz. ... Marlins RHP Javier Vazquez, who is scheduled to face Atlanta on Wednesday, is 7-10 in 20 starts against his former team. But he hasn't faced the Braves since 2005. ... RHP Derek Lowe, scheduled to start against the Marlins on Wednesday, is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA against them this season, with the win on Aug. 8. ... Sanchez is winless in his past eight home starts. ... Prado improved his lifetime average against Sanchez to .444 (12 for 27).
The Associated Press News Service
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