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Marlins use sock exchange to pay dividends against Nats

July 30, 2005|By STEVEN WINE

MIAMI - Josh Beckett reached 10 wins in a season for the first time, pitching 6 1/3 innings to help the Florida Marlins beat the slumping Washington Nationals 4-3 Friday night.

Paul Lo Duca doubled home three runs in the first inning against the Nationals, who have lost five straight and 17 of their last 22 games. Washington has lost 10 consecutive one-run decisions, including its past four games.

The Marlins have won three in a row, all since hiking their pant legs and wearing high black socks in a bid to change their luck. They closed within 1 1/2 games of the Nationals, who began the night tied with Houston for the NL Wild Card lead.

Beckett (10-6) allowed only two hits in the first six innings, then tired in the seventh. He struck out eight, walked one, allowed three runs and improved his career record to 36-32.

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The right-hander broke into the majors in 2001 at age 21 and was the World Series MVP in 2003. But he has been on the disabled list nine times, including twice this year, often because of finger blisters.

Tony Armas Jr. (5-5) fell behind in the first. Juan Pierre led off with a single, Jeff Conine singled, Miguel Cabrera walked and Lo Duca cleared the bases for a 3-0 lead.

Washington's Brian Schneider hit his seventh homer in the third, but otherwise the fiery Beckett dominated early.

He started a 1-6-3 double play to end the third inning, then punched the air in celebration. He threw another fist after a strikeout ended the fourth as the crowd of 29,322 roared.

Three relievers completed a seven-hitter. Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 19th save in 21 chances and his third in three nights.

Armas fell to 1-5 on the road, allowing four runs in six innings. He retired the first two batters in the fifth but gave up a run on a walk to Cabrera and singles by Lo Duca and Juan Encarnacion.

Washington scored in the seventh on singles by Jose Guillen, Preston Wilson and Vinny Castilla to knock out Beckett. Reliever Jim Mecir gave up an RBI single by Schneider to make the score 4-3, then struck out Ryan Church with runners at second and third to end the inning.

Nationals center fielder Brad Wilkerson kept the score at 4-3 when he threw out Conine trying to score from second on a two-out single in the seventh.

Notes: The Marlins had lost the opening game in eight consecutive series. ... Nationals SS Cristian Guzman was 1-for-35 since the All-Star break before he singled in the third. ... Armas fell to 1-6 with a 5.55 ERA in seven lifetime starts in Miami. On the road this season he has an ERA of 7.49 ERA in six starts. ... Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

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