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  Monday, May 8 7:05pm ET
Marlins top Braves on ninth-inning Rocker balk

MIAMI (AP) -- With the game on the line, John Rocker literally dropped the ball.

"No pun intended," he said.

The controversial reliever balked home the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning Monday when the ball fell out of his glove, and the Florida Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2.

John Rocker didn't have anything nice to say -- about himself -- after his game-ending balk. "I'm a horrible player," he said.
"The only quote I'm giving is I'm a horrible player," said Rocker, who seemed incredulous rather than angry. "I'm just a bad player. That's the bottom line."

With the count 2-2 to Cliff Floyd and Danny Bautista at third, Rocker took his position on the rubber as the crowd of 14,024 howled. Then the ball fell out of Rocker's glove to the ground, second base umpire Mike DiMuro signaled a balk, and Bautista trotted home.

"I think the umpires didn't really want to call it, but they couldn't ignore it," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "It was a fluky thing."

Rocker and manager Bobby Cox briefly spoke to DiMuro as the umpires left the field, but the Braves didn't dispute the call.

"Of all the ways to win a game," Marlins manager John Boles said. "Holy smoke, we'll take it."

It was the first game-ending balk in the NL since July 4, 1993, when the Braves beat the Marlins 4-3 at Atlanta. Deion Sanders scored on rookie Matt Turner's balk with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

That had been the last game-winning balk in the majors until April 28, when Texas' Jeff Zimmerman did it in a 4-3 loss at Baltimore.

Atlanta and Florida were tied at 2 when Paul Bako led off the ninth with a single against Rudy Seanez (1-1). Pinch-runner Bautista advanced to second when first baseman Andres Galarraga mishandled a pickoff throw.

After pinch-hitter Dave Berg fouled out attempting to bunt, Luis Castillo grounded out, advancing Bautista to third.

Rocker, suspended earlier this season for making disparaging comments about minorities and others, then sprinted into the game to a noisy reception, with more jeers than cheers.

Rocker intentionally walked pinch-hitter Mark Smith, bringing Floyd to the plate. The sequence: strike, ball, strike, foul, ball, balk.

Floyd, focused on trying to hit Rocker's 97 mph fastball, wasn't aware that the ball fell out of the reliever's glove.

"I saw everybody coming out of the dugout, so I figured something was going on," Floyd said. "In that situation, you just hope he makes a mistake and leaves a pitch over the plate -- or drops the ball."

The Braves lost for the fourth time in five games since winning 15 in a row. They committed three errors, gave up three unearned runs and wasted a fine performance by Greg Maddux.

"We went for a long time catching a lot of breaks," Jones said. "Now they're going against us."

Maddux allowed eight hits and two runs and struck out a season-high 10 in seven innings. He drove in the Braves' first run with a two-out single in the fifth.

Of Rocker's balk, Maddux said: "It's unfortunate. With a closer it's magnified."

Florida's Vladimir Nunez, in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, made his best start of the season and departed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth with the score 2-2. He lowered his ERA from 10.48 to 9.17.

Dan Miceli (3-1) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Florida took advantage of an error by rookie shortstop Rafael Furcal to score two unearned runs in the first.

Nunez walked the first three batters in the sixth but allowed only one run -- on Galarraga's double-play grounder -- to tie the score. Brian Jordan's groundout ended the inning.

Jordan lined out to third with the bases loaded to end the eighth. Teammate Javier Lopez hit a 400-flyout to center with a man on in the ninth.

"That's out of every (other) ballpark in the world," Cox said.

Game notes
Maddux lowered his lifetime ERA against the Marlins to 1.91 in 18 starts. ... Braves catcher Fernando Lunar, making his major league debut, went 0-for-3 and threw out one of three base stealers. ... The Marlins missed a chance to take the lead in the sixth when Castillo struck out with runners at second and third to end the inning. Castillo doesn't have an RBI in 58 at-bats this season.


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