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Sanchez outduels Martinez as Marlins top Mets

Sep 22, 2006 - 2:03 AM FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) Pedro Martinez continued his preparation for the postseason by losing to a team still making a pitch to get there.

Rookie Anibal Sanchez pitched seven strong innings and Miguel Olivo and Hanley Ramirez each drove in two runs off Martinez in a four-run fifth inning as the Florida Marlins defeated the New York Mets, 5-2.

The Marlins (76-77) managed a split of the four-game series and moved within 3 1/2 games of the front-running Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies in the National League wild card race. The Phillies were off on Thursday and the Dodgers host the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"Anibal was outstanding. He's done it for us the whole second half of the year for us," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "The third time through the lineup, the guys made the adjustments against Pedro."

The Mets have coasted to the National League East title, finally clinching on Monday, so Thursday's contest centered on the health of Martinez, the ace righthander who was making his second start since coming off the disabled list last week.

Martinez lasted just three innings in a loss to Pittsburgh on Friday and was visibly upset in the dugout after his sluggish performance. A healthy and effective Martinez, who had been out with a calf injury, is considered crucial for the Mets' chances of advancing deep into the postseason.

"I pushed it a little too much the last time out. I was disappointed because I had worked so hard," said Martinez, who admitted his calf became stiff during the start. "I backed off a little bit tonight and got my work in."

The three-time Cy Young award winner looked far better on Thursday for four innings at least.

Martinez allowed just one walk through the first four innings before Mike Jacobs singled to open the fifth. Joe Borchard singled one out later and Alfredo Amezaga was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Olivo blooped a single to right field to bring home two runs and Ramirez grounded a two-out double down the left field line to give the Marlins a 4-1 lead.

"He looked good to me," Olivo said of Martinez.

Martinez (9-7) allowed four runs - three earned - and four hits in five innings. He threw 87 pitches, 52 for strikes and struck out seven.

"I know what I need to correct," Martinez added. "I'm going to use this as a way to ease into the playoffs. I'm going to push hard in the playoffs."

The Mets are 6-11 in the last 17 games started by Martinez since the beginning of May.

"He does not look completely healthy to me," Girardi said. "But he doesn't have to be completely healthy to get people out."

The four-run fifth was enough for Sanchez (9-3), who tossed a no-hitter against Arizona on September 6. The righthander defeated the Mets for the second time this month, allowing two runs - one earned - and seven hits in seven innings.

"I didn't feel any extra pressure (facing Pedro)," Sanchez said. "I just try to make an adjustment every pitch. Every mound is different."

Sanchez, who walked one and struck out five, won for the fifth time in six starts.

"These young Florida pitchers, they not only have good stuff. They know how to pitch," Mets outfielder Shawn Green said.

Rookie Taylor Tankersley pitched the eighth and Joe Borowski logged a perfect ninth for his 36th save.

Endy Chavez played a role in both New York runs. He led off the fourth with a single later scored on a single by Carlos Delgado. Chavez added an RBI single in the fifth.

Wes Helms drove in the fifth Florida run with a double in the eighth.

Florida's Miguel Cabrera, currently second in the NL in batting, missed his second straight game with a sore left shoulder.

"He's day to day. We'll see how he is when he gets to the ballpark tomorrow at 4 o'clock," Girardi said.

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