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Ramirez leads Florida over Atlanta

MIAMI - Before the game even began, the Florida Marlins were guessing.

How many fans would show to watch two teams far out of first place on a weekday afternoon game with sweltering humidity and the heat topping 90 degrees?

'I was way off,' Marlins reliever Joe Nelson joked. 'I had predicted 418.'

Only missed by a couple hundred.

Hanley Ramirez homered and doubled to lead the Marlins past the Atlanta Braves 5-3 Wednesday in front of an incredibly sparse crowd of just 600 fans at the first pitch.

Dolphin Stadium's bright orange and aqua seats were more visible than normal, leaving most fans to reflect the afternoon sun. While the official attendance, based on tickets sold, was 11,211, the ballpark was so quiet that home-plate chatter could be heard.

'I got enough worries about 30 guys on the field,' Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. 'It doesn't seem to bother our guys. They go out and play hard.'

Jeremy Hermida had two hits and an RBI, and three relievers kept the Braves scoreless over the final three innings to preserve the win. Doug Waechter (4-2) got his first win since July 25, and Nelson pitched a perfect ninth for his first save of the season.

The Marlins, still trying to finalize plans for a retractable-roof stadium near downtown, said they can understand why few fans showed on a hot day but still hoped for a better turnout.

'The fans that did come out that's who we play for,' Nelson said. 'I know a lot of people watch us at home, and I do understand, it's hot out here. It's a difficult situation to sit for nine innings.'

Braves manager Bobby Cox extended his major league ejection record to 143, getting tossed in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes. It was the eighth time this season he was ejected.

Kelly Johnson hit a two-run triple for the Braves, who fell to 20 games below .500 for the second time this week. Before Monday, the last time they were that far below even was at the end of the 1990 season, when they finished 65-97.

'We've lost a lot of games this year,' Atlanta catcher Brian McCann said. 'You get to the point where you are repeating yourself. We were in the game the whole time. Bottom line is they outscored us.'

Florida began the day eight games back of the New York Mets for first place in the NL East. The Marlins avoided falling to .500 for the first time since April 6, when they were 3-3, but would still need a historic September to catch the Mets.

The Marlins believe they still have a chance, although their fans appear to have already conceded.

Florida is used to a lack of support, but even Wednesday's game was a stretch for the Marlins, who are by far the majors worst in attendance with an average between 16,000 and 17,000 fans.

'We like to see a lot more here,' Nelson said. 'I think we have to run off 10 or 15 in a row to see that. Winning cures everything.'

Cody Ross hit an RBI single, and Ramirez scored on a wild pitch by Vladimir Nunez to give the Marlins a 5-3 lead in the seventh.