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Updated: Thursday, April 15, 2004 8:30 PM EDT
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FLORIDA 3, MONTREAL 0
 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Ticker) -- Absolute zero.

Carl Pavano and two relievers combined on a three-hitter to lead the Florida Marlins to a fourth straight shutout win over the Montreal Expos , 3-0.

The first shutout came in a 3-0 victory over the Expos April 8 in Florida before the Marlins blanked Montreal throughout this three-game series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

It marked the first time in franchise history that the Marlins recorded three consecutive shutouts as they extended their scoreless string to a club-record 30 innings.

"I think my pitchers push each other," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "It's all in good competition, all good. As far as maturing and reaching a new level, these guys are fast becoming one of the better staffs in baseball."

The last time a team swept a three-game series with shutouts was 1995, when Baltimore victimized Detroit. Atlanta was the last team to pitch three straight shutouts September 4-7, 2002 against Pittsburgh (one) and Montreal (two).

Brad Penny allowed just two hits over eight innings in a 5-0 victory in Florida's series-opening victory on Tuesday. Dontrelle Willis and three relievers combined on an eight-hitter in a 9-0 rout on Wednesday.

Pavano (1-0), a former Expo, allowed all three hits in seven innings and walked just one. He retired the first 10 batters before Jamey Carroll tripled in the fourth. After walking Jose Vidro , Pavano retired Orlando Cabrera on a groundout and Brad Wilkerson on a flyout to end the inning.

In the sixth inning, the Expos had runners on second and third and one out, but Vidro and Cabrera grounded out to end the threat.

"I wasn't going to be the one to go out there and mess up our rhythm," Pavano said. "So as long as this shutout streak lasts, let's enjoy it."

Chad Fox struck out the side in the eighth and Armando Benitez pitched a hitless ninth for his sixth save in as many opportunities.

The Marlins extended their winning streak to seven games and improved to 8-1, matching the best start in franchise history set in 1997, their first championship season.

The Expos have not scored a run in 39 consecutive innings against Florida and have the fewest runs in baseball with 10 in nine games. At 2-7, the Expos are off to their worst start since they were 1-9 in 1998.

"It just feels like replays, another nightmare," Expos manager Frank Robinson said of his team's 33-inning scoreless drought. "We are not doing anything, nothing."

"I was telling my friends and my family before the game that this was the first time I've seen something like this in my career," said Vidro, a native of Puerto Rico. "It's hard to believe. I don't know what the reason is."

The Marlins scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning off Zach Day (0-1). Hee Seop Choi highlighted the inning with a two-run homer. It was the fifth home run of the season for Choi, who had eight in 202 at-bats with the Chicago Cubs last season.


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