ATLANTA (AP) - Brad Hand was cruising along with a 1-0 lead.
Then, a familiar problem got the Florida pitcher in trouble.
Hand, who has struggled with his control, gave up a one-out walk in the sixth before Brian McCann hit a three-run homer that roused the Atlanta Braves from their worst skid of the season. They went on to beat the Marlins 7-1 on Tuesday night, snapping a four-game losing streak.
``He pitched good for five innings. But it's a nine-inning game,' Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. ``Inexperience, really. You get the lead, you've got to close. You've got to shut 'em down if you want to be a winner.'
Hand (1-7) has walked 34 in 56 innings, and it was a free pass to Dan Uggla that started his trouble in the sixth. Matt Diaz followed with a single and McCann came through with a towering shot over the center-field wall for his 24th homer.
``Once again, the base on balls got him started,' McKeon said. ``And we didn't get him any runs. So he didn't have any margin for error, either.'
Hand wasn't too displeased with the pitch to McCann.
``It was in. It was a decent pitch. He just made a good swing,' the pitcher said. ``I was trying to keep my team in the game. I was trying to hold that 1-0 lead.'
The Braves, whose lead over St. Louis in the NL wild-card standings remained at 4 1/2 games, held a private meeting before batting practice in hopes of shaking things up. They came into the game having lost seven of nine, their once-comfortable lead for the NL wild card a lot tighter.
They finally turned things around in the sixth. Atlanta had gone 36 innings since its last lead, struggling especially to drive home runners from third with less than two outs. McCann was one of the culprits, striking out Monday night with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning of a tie game. Florida went on to a 5-4 victory in 12.
``Last night was rough on me,' McCann said. ``To come back and help the team get a win is huge.'
Uggla added a three-run shot in the seventh - giving him a career-best 34 homers on the year - but he said McCann's drive was the one that really loosened the Braves up. The All-Star catcher was mired in 5-for-28 slump (.179) and had gone nearly two weeks since his last long ball.
``That took a lot of pressure off the whole team,' Uggla said. ``That was not just a three-run homer. That could be one of the biggest homers this year.'
Peter Moylan (2-1) claimed the win by getting the final out in the top half after taking over for starter Mike Minor.
The Cardinals kept pace in the playoff race, beating Pittsburgh 6-4, but Atlanta has only 13 games left.
Uggla's homer turned it into a laugher. Chipper Jones led off with a single to center, Freddie Freeman walked and Uggla teed off on a 1-2 pitch from Brian Sanches, driving it deep into the left-field seats to eclipse his previous career high - 33 homers with the Marlins last season.
``Our pitchers should know Uggla,' McKeon said. ``But we always seem to make a mistake to him.'
Considering he struggled through the first two months under .200, Uggla has produced quite a turnaround. He's homered four times off his former team.
``That's why you play the whole season,' he said. ``You've just got to stay positive, stay the course, keep on working and don't get down on yourself.'
Michael Bourn added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Minor lasted 5 2-3 innings for the Braves. He allowed four hits, including Emilio Bonifacio's run-scoring single in the fifth that broke a scoreless tie.
Donnie Murphy led off with a walk - one of four issued by Minor - and Matt Dominguez followed with a single to center that put runners at first and third. Hand sacrificed Dominguez to second, and Bonifacio came through with a liner to right.
Dominguez had to hold at third on Bonifacio's hit and remained stranded there when Omar Infante's flyout to left wasn't deep enough for the runner to tag. Minor got out of the jam on Greg Dobbs' liner to third.
The rookie left-hander is looking as though he's ready to help in the postseason, especially if the Braves are without injured starters Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
``I feel better and better every time I go out there,' Minor said. ``I feel like more a part of the team than just a fill-in. I think they kind of trust me now a little bit.'
NOTES: Florida quietly released 38-year-old OF Mike Cameron after Monday's win over the Braves, deciding to go with younger players for the final two weeks of the season. ... Florida OF Logan Morrison had his right knee drained but an MRI showed no serious damage. He hasn't played since crashing into a wall at Pittsburgh last Friday.
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