ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves are hitting plenty of homers, and now they have someone who can actually hold a ninth-inning lead.
Adam LaRoche hit the last of Atlanta's three homers, a tiebreaking, two-out shot in the eighth, and Bob Wickman got the final three outs to preserve a 6-5 victory over the Florida Marlins on Wednesday night.
Andruw Jones tied the game with a leadoff homer in the eighth. Three batters later, LaRoche won it with his 20th of the season, equaling his career-best output from a year ago with 62 games remaining.
The Braves have 49 homers in July, a franchise record for this month, and are six away from the major league mark for July set by the 1947 Giants and 2003 Red Sox. Fifty-five also is the team record for any month.
They're also keeping themselves on the fringe of the wild-card race after getting off to a dismal start.
"These games really make you feel like it's a playoff atmosphere," LaRoche said. "It feels like the last game of the season, and it means everything."
Atlanta struggled much of the season to protect late-inning leads, but Wickman appears to have settled the bullpen. Acquired last week from Cleveland, the two-time All-Star has three straight scoreless appearances for the Braves, adding two saves to the 15 he had for the Indians.
"It's a good feeling having a guy who's done it for many, many years," said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, who wasn't around to see the ending after being ejected in the eighth for arguing a checked swing.
But the Braves put together their own rally. Jones, who had not started in the last three games because of a sore back, didn't appear to be in any pain as he sent the first pitch from Logan Kensing deep into the seats in left-center for his 25th homer.
Jones came into the night tied for NL lead with 88 RBI.
"To tell you the truth, I really didn't swing," Jones said. "It was just really solid contact and the ball took care of me."
Kensing got the next two hitters, but Florida called on left-hander Taylor Tankersley (1-1) to face the hot-hitting LaRoche. The move didn't work. On a 3-2 pitch, LaRoche hit a towering drive that cleared the wall in right-center.
"I was definitely trying to hit a gap," said LaRoche, who has 16 RBI in 10 games since the All-Star break. "I'm not a lot of use on first base."
Smoltz (8-5) cruised through the first five innings, facing only one batter above the minimum while the Braves staked him to a three-run lead against Florida starter Josh Johnson.
The Marlins broke through in the sixth, however. Miguel Olivo led off with single, moved up on Johnson's sacrifice bunt and scored on Alfredo Amezaga's single up the middle. Uggla doubled to the gap in left-center, bringing Amezaga all the way home, and Michael Jacobs came through with a two-out, run-scoring single that tied the game at 3.
"I'm proud of the way our guys came back," manager Joe Girardi said. "They never gave up. They kept fighting."
The Braves went back ahead in the bottom half of the sixth, taking advantage of some shaky defense by the Marlins. Taking his eye off the ball as he set for a possible inning-ending double play, Uggla led a routine grounder deflect off his glove and skid into right field.
The misplay allowed LaRoche to drive in an unearned run with a two-out single, which was kicked away by right fielder Jeremy Hermida for the second error of the inning. That one didn't cause any more damage -- Johnson retired Smoltz on a flyout with the bases loaded.
Trailing again, Florida came right back in the seventh. Joe Borchard hit an opposite field homer deep into the left-field seats, his seventh of the year making it 4-4. The Uggla took Smoltz deep again.
"I don't know what happened," Smoltz said. "That's the most embarrassed I've been ever been as far as feeling like I had the game in hand."
The Braves jumped ahead in the second, stringing together three straight hits against Johnson. Ryan Langerhans doubled in a run, then Smoltz made it 2-0 with a squeeze bunt that brought home LaRoche. Langerhans tried to score all the way from second on the play, but he was easily thrown out at home by Jacobs.
Brian McCann hit his 12th homer for the Braves in the fourth.
"The way the Braves have been swinging the bats the last month, you make one mistake and it's going to hurt you," Girardi said.
- Braves 3B Chipper Jones returned to the lineup after missing three games with a strained side muscle. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, ending a 20-game hitting streak that equaled the longest of his career.
- Florida dropped to 4-20 at Turner Field over the last three seasons, including 1-5 this year.
- Johnson went six innings, giving up seven hits and four runs, three earned.
- Cox was ejected for the 124th time in his managing career, tied with Leo Durocher for second on the career list and trailing only John McGraw.