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Braves' slide continues in 5-4 loss
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ATLANTA — The Braves believe they’re still in great shape to make the playoffs, even though they’re struggling to protect their NL wild-card lead.

Mike Stanton’s pinch-hit single in the 12th inning drove in the go-ahead run and the Florida Marlins beat Atlanta 5-4 on Monday night to extend the Braves’ slump.

The Braves, coming off a 2-6 road trip, have lost four straight and nine of 12. They still lead St. Louis by 4 1/2 games in the wild-card race.

“We’re still in a good spot despite coming off a losing road trip and losing this one the way we did,” said Brandon Beachy, who struck out 10, one shy of his career high, but gave up four runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings.

“We’re still confident in our abilities,” Beachy said.

“We’ve got a 4«-game lead with 14 left in the season. We should definitely make the playoffs and once that happens we can regroup and refocus and get things done.”

The Braves had an assist from Pittsburgh, which beat St. Louis 6-5 on Monday night to keep the Cardinals from gaining ground in the wild-card race.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he’s trying to “just keep talking to them and staying positive.”

The Marlins have five more games left against Atlanta.

“If you don’t get the opportunity to play in the playoffs, it’s fun to see how we can affect the outcome,” said Florida’s Donnie Murphy.

Braves rookie right-hander Anthony Varvaro (0-2) walked John Buck to lead off the 12th. Pinch-runner Brett Hayes moved to second on Bryan Peterson’s sacrifice before Varvaro issued an intentional walk to Murphy.

Stanton, held out of the starting lineup due to a strained right hamstring, lined a 1-2 pitch from Cristhian Martinez into left field to drive in Hayes.

Marlins manager Jack McKeon said he was tempted to use Stanton as a pinch-hitter earlier in the game.

“I tried to use him two or three times during the game,” McKeon said. “I was debating.”

The Marlins have won four straight.

Clay Hensley (4-6) pitched two scoreless innings for the win. Leo Nunez pitched the 12th for his 35th save.

The Braves couldn’t score in the ninth after loading the bases with one out. Michael Bourn, who led off the inning with a double to the left-field wall, was stranded on third as Steve Cishek struck out Brian McCann on a called third strike before ending the threat on Martin Prado’s groundout.

The frustrations continued when the Braves stranded runners in each of the next three innings. McCann struck out in the 11th with a runner on second.

“I came up twice with a chance to dictate the outcome and came up empty both times,” McCann said, adding he had “two horrible at-bats.”

Nunez walked Jason Heyward to lead off the 12th. Heyward moved to second on Jack Wilson’s sacrifice. Nunez struck out pinch-hitter J.C. Boscan and ended the game on Bourn’s grounder to second.

Alex Gonzalez, rejuvenated after a three-day break to rest his sore lower back, had three hits and drove in two runs, including a single off Edward Mujica in the eighth that drove in Heyward for a 4-4 tie.

Beachy gave up triples to Omar Infante in the first and Emilio Bonifacio in the third. Infante scored on Greg Dobbs’ single and Bonifacio scored on Infante’s fly ball as Florida took a 2-0 lead.

Dan Uggla singled and scored on a double by Gonzalez in the fourth. Bourn, who had an infield hit, scored on Freddie Freeman’s fly ball to center in the fifth for a 2-2 tie.

Beachy walked Bryan Peterson with one out in the sixth before Donnie Murphy hit a pop fly that fell in shallow left-center for a single. With Peterson running from first on the pitch, Gonzalez, the shortstop, was breaking to second and couldn’t recover in time to make the catch.

The Marlins took advantage of the break when Matt Dominguez drove in Peterson with a single up the middle, knocking Beachy out of the game. Dominguez scored on a wild pitch from Arodys Vizcaino to give Florida a 4-2 lead.

Prado hit a triple in the sixth and scored on Heyward’s fly ball to trim the Marlins’ lead to one run.

Chris Volstad gave up two runs and seven hits and a walk in five innings for Florida.

NOTES: Florida was without its starting outfield for the third straight game. Manager Jack McKeon said LF Logan Morrison (bruised left knee) will miss the series. Morrison was having an MRI on the knee on Monday. McKeon said CF Mike Cameron (strained right hamstring) could pinch-hit. ... Braves RHP Tommy Hanson, on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, said he had normal soreness after throwing in the bullpen for the first time in St. Louis. He is set for another bullpen session on Wednesday. ... Two rookie left-handers, Atlanta’s Mike Minor and Florida’s Brad Hand, are scheduled to pitch in Tuesday night’s game. Minor gave up nine hits and six runs in four innings in his only previous start against Florida on Sept. 5, 2010. Hand is 0-2 against Atlanta this season and gave up seven runs in an 8-4 loss to the Braves at Florida on Aug. 8.

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