MIAMI -- When Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon told his players Sunday he was calling it quits, they responded with applause and hugs -- and then a comeback win.
McKeon's resignation had been expected, and he confirmed it to the team in the clubhouse before the game.
"He got very emotional when he told us, like your granddad is going away and you're not going to see him anymore," veteran Jeff Conine said. "It's tough for him. Baseball is his life."
McKeon led the Marlins to the 2003 World Series title and a winning record in each of his three seasons as manager. Now 74, he said he told his family last year that this season would be his last, and he decided almost two months ago to keep that pledge. But he didn't rule out managing again.
"The last couple of years I haven't had as much fun as I'd like," McKeon said. "Since I'm the leader, I'll take full responsibility for the poor year we had."
Florida was touted as a likely playoff team but faded in September for the second year in a row and finished 83-79. Players grumbled about McKeon's gruff style, but injuries, poor relief pitching and a lack of clutch hitting made his job difficult.
The Braves, who clinched their 14th consecutive division title Tuesday, begin the playoffs at home Wednesday against Houston. The Astros eliminated Atlanta in the division series last year.
"Anything that can help us get motivated is good enough for me," second baseman Marcus Giles said. "If it's about revenge, then that's what it might take."
Right-hander John Smoltz said he expects to start Game 1 for Atlanta.
"It should be an exciting series," he said, "but I don't foresee a lot of runs being scored."
With Bobby Cox's regulars seeing limited action, the Braves lost their final four regular-season games. They were one out from winning the finale when Hermida homered off Kyle Davies to force extra innings.
Florida led 4-3 when Todd Jones replaced Dontrelle Willis, who was bidding for his 23rd victory. Five singles helped the Braves score three runs in the eighth inning off Jones, who blew a save for the fifth time in 45 chances.
Willis struck out a career-high 12 and shrugged off his failure to become the first 23-game winner since 2002.
"We won," he said. "It's a sweet feeling going out and shaking hands on the final day."
Willis said he was saddened by McKeon's decision to resign.
"He's a great baseball mind," Willis said. "But he wants to get with his family, and you've got to respect that."
The third-oldest manager in major-league history, McKeon will remain with the Marlins as an adviser -- and he's open to offers from other teams.
"Sometimes you need to step back and maybe take a breather for six or seven months and get recharged," he said. "I haven't given up the thought of managing again."
McKeon, who began his managerial career in the minors 50 years ago, became the 52nd manager to earn 1,000 major-league wins Sept. 3. Three of the Marlins' four winning seasons came since he came on board in May 2003.
"He taught our organization to work hard," general manager Larry Beinfest said. "That set the tone for all the good things that happened to us."
Beinfest said the team will likely wait until after the World Series to hire a replacement.
The Marlins held a one-game lead in the NL wild-card race Sept. 14 but lost 12 of their next 14 games. The meltdown included the banishment of pitcher A.J. Burnett for criticizing McKeon and his staff as being unsupportive and too conservative.
McKeon said he thanked his players for their efforts during the clubhouse meeting before his final game.
"I also told them," he said with a smile, "that if I offended anybody and hurt their feelings, it wasn't on purpose."
|Jack McKeon waves goodbye after a successful three-year stint as Marlins manager. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Rafael Furcal, SS||3||0||2||0||0||1||0||.284|
|Wilson Betemit, SS||2||0||1||2||0||0||1||.305|
|Marcus Giles, 2B||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.291|
|Pete Orr, 2B||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||.300|
|Chipper Jones, 3B||3||1||2||1||0||1||1||.296|
|Andy Marte, 3B||1||0||0||0||1||1||0||.140|
|Andruw Jones, CF||3||0||1||0||0||1||2||.263|
|Ryan Langerhans, PR-CF||1||0||0||0||1||1||0||.267|
|Julio Franco, 1B||2||1||1||0||1||1||2||.275|
|Adam LaRoche, PR-1B||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.259|
|Jeff Francoeur, RF||5||1||1||0||0||2||3||.300|
|Brian Jordan, LF||3||1||1||0||0||2||0||.247|
|Joey Devine, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Blaine Boyer, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|John Foster, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jim Brower, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Johnny Estrada, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.261|
|Kelly Johnson, PR||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||.241|
|Kyle Farnsworth, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Kyle Davies, P||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.200|
|Brian McCann, C||5||1||2||3||0||0||0||.278|
|Horacio Ramirez, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||.219|
|b- Todd Hollandsworth, PH-LF||2||0||2||0||0||0||0||.244|
|a-singled for Brower in the 8th|
|b-singled for Ramirez in the 6th|
|2B - Brian McCann (7, Willis)|
|3B - Rafael Furcal (11, Willis)|
|HR - Chipper Jones (21, Willis)|
|RBI - Wilson Betemit 2 (20), Chipper Jones (72), Brian McCann 3 (23)|
|2-OUT RBI - Chipper Jones (24), Brian McCann 2 (8)|
|CS - Andy Marte (1, 2nd base by Willis/Treanor)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Furcal-Giles-Franco, Orr-Betemit|
|Joey Devine (H,1)||1||1||0||0||1||1||0||12.60|
|Blaine Boyer (BS,2)||0||3||3||3||1||0||0||3.11|
|Kyle Farnsworth (H,19)||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||2.19|
|Kyle Davies (BS,1; L,7-6)||1.2||4||3||3||0||0||1||4.93|
|IBB - Cabrera by Jim Brower|
|HBP - Wilson (by Kyle Farnsworth)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Horacio Ramirez 69-46, Joey Devine 16-10, Blaine Boyer 22-13, John Foster 4-2, Jim Brower 18-10, Kyle Farnsworth 11-6, Kyle Davies 31-21|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Horacio Ramirez 8-1, Jim Brower 2-0, Kyle Farnsworth 1-1, Kyle Davies 1-4|
|Batters Faced - Horacio Ramirez 19, Joey Devine 5, Blaine Boyer 4, John Foster 1, Jim Brower 4, Kyle Farnsworth 4, Kyle Davies 9|
|Juan Pierre, CF||6||0||5||3||0||0||2||.276|
|Chris Aguila, LF||3||0||1||1||0||1||2||.244|
|a- Carlos Delgado, PH-1B||2||0||1||1||0||0||0||.301|
|Jeff Conine, 1B-LF||5||1||1||0||0||0||3||.304|
|Miguel Cabrera, 3B||3||0||0||0||2||1||1||.323|
|Jeremy Hermida, RF||5||1||2||2||0||2||3||.293|
|Mike Lowell, 2B||4||0||0||0||1||0||5||.236|
|Dontrelle Willis, P||3||0||1||0||0||0||1||.261|
|Jason Vargas, PR||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||.308|
|Josh Wilson, SS||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||.100|
|Robert Andino, SS||2||0||0||0||0||2||0||.159|
|b- Joe Dillon, PH||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||.167|
|Todd Jones, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.333|
|c- Lenny Harris, PH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.314|
|Ron Villone, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|d- Paul Lo Duca, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.283|
|Matt Treanor, C||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||.201|
|e- Josh Willingham, PH-C||1||1||0||0||1||0||1||.304|
|a-singled for Aguila in the 7th|
|b-doubled for Andino in the 7th|
|c-walked for T. Jones in the 8th|
|d-lined out for Villone in the 10th|
|e-walked for Treanor in the 7th|
|2B - Josh Wilson (1, Davies), Joe Dillon (1, Boyer), Matt Treanor (8, Ramirez)|
|HR - Jeremy Hermida (4, Davies)|
|SH - Josh Willingham (1)|
|RBI - Juan Pierre 3 (47), Chris Aguila (4), Carlos Delgado (115), Jeremy Hermida 2 (11)|
|2-OUT RBI - Juan Pierre (22), Chris Aguila (2), Jeremy Hermida 2 (5)|
|CS - Juan Pierre (17, 2nd base by Ramirez/McCann)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|Outfield Assists - Jeff Conine 1|
|DP - Wilson-Delgado|
|Todd Jones (BS,5)||1||5||3||3||0||0||0||2.10|
|Ron Villone (W,5-5)||2||0||0||0||1||2||0||4.08|
|Pitches-Strikes - Dontrelle Willis 120-79, Todd Jones 19-13, Ron Villone 25-15|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dontrelle Willis 4-4, Todd Jones 1-1, Ron Villone 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Dontrelle Willis 31, Todd Jones 7, Ron Villone 6|
|Attendance - 29214|
|Game Time - 3:01|
|Temperature - 88|
|Umpires - Home - Dan Iassogna, First Base - Dale Scott, Second Base - Tim Tschida, Third Base - Jeff Nelson|