Pierre's fifth hit lifts Marlins past Braves in season finale
MIAMI (Ticker) --
sent manager Jack McKeon out on a high note and the
into the postseason with a sour taste in their mouths.
Pierre collected five hits, including the game-winning single in the 10th, as the
finished their season with a three-game sweep of the Braves, who will not take any momentum in the playoffs.
After the game, Florida (83-79) held a news conference in which McKeon announced his resignation. He will remain with the club as a special advisor to team owner and CEO Jeffery Loria.
McKeon, who won 1,011 games in 15 years as a big league manager, said he made the decision two months ago and told his players prior to Sunday's game.
"I'm saddened in a way," McKeon said. "You're always sad the last day of the season, especially when you don't make the playoffs. But I've been thinking the past couple of months how blessed I've been to be in this game 50-plus years, and had a family that supported me. And I promised them last year that this year would be my last. ... It's been a great run."
The 74-year-old McKeon took over the Marlins in mid-2003 and guided them to their second World Series title. After a dropoff in 2004, Florida (83-79) once again was expected to be a major contender this season, but McKeon's squad struggled to score runs and got inconsistent pitching - but not from
Willis left a solid last impression for Cy Young Award voters, allowing three runs and nine hits in seven innings. The electrifying lefthander, who walked two and struck out a career-best 12, finished the campaign with a 22-10 record and a 2.63 ERA.
"We won and it's such a great feeling to finish out the year like that," said Willis, who was denied win No. 23 when
gave up three runs in the eighth for only his fifth blown save of the season. "We're professionals. ... It's going to be tough to watch the postseason because we were so close."
"We didn't perform (this season)," Pierre said. "Everybody was waiting for us to get hot, and it just never happened. ... Probably the only bright spot for us all year was Dontrelle."
Willis, who finished the season with a .261 average, also singled to ignite a three-run rally in the seventh that gave Florida a 4-3 lead.
However, the teams traded late rallies to forge a 6-6 tie after nine innings.
doubled to lead off the 10th and, following a pair of outs, Pierre grounded a sharp single to right off
(7-6) to send the playoff-bound Braves to their fourth straight loss.
"That's what I was thinking," Pierre said of the game-winning hit. "If I could just come through one time this year. Finally, I did. It's probably the biggest hit of the year for me."
(5-5) worked two scoreless innings to pick up the win for Florida, which led the wild card by 1 1/2 games in mid-September before losing 10 of its next 12 games to fall out of contention.
"It's sad for (McKeon) to go out that way," Pierre said. "Personally, I feel I let him down. With the long career he's had, he deserves to go out better, but we did get him a ring. We had more good times than bad times with him. You just wish him the best whatever he does."
Meanwhile, Atlanta (90-72) clinched its 14th straight division title Tuesday but has not looked impressive since, closing out the season with just its second sweep of the season.
The Braves open the postseason Wednesday by hosting the wild card-winning
"Getting ready for the playoffs was more important than winning a game," said Atlanta manager
, who has directed the team throughout its unprecedented run.
took it a step further.
"Some of us had our eyes on the scoreboard, but it really doesn't matter if we keep playing like this," Giles said. "We have to concentrate on playing better baseball rather than who we play.
"We need to step it up another notch before Wednesday. In a way, it seems like we've been sitting around on our heels the past few weeks playing not to get hurt. When you do that, you wind up playing not to win, and we have to clean that up before our first playoff game."