MIAMI – Julio Franco hit his eighth career grand slam, a pinch-hit shot, and Horacio Ramirez pitched the streaking Atlanta Braves past the Florida Marlins 7-2 Monday night in a game called during the eighth inning because of rain.

Brian Giles, Adam LaRoche and Johnny Estrada – celebrating his 29th birthday – also drove in runs for Atlanta, which has won nine of 11 to move within 2 games of first-place Washington in the NL East. Rafael Furcal tripled and doubled for his third multihit effort in his last five games.

The 46-year-old Franco, already the oldest player in major league history to hit a grand slam, sealed the victory in the eighth. Furcal and Giles, who also had two hits, executed a double steal. The Marlins then intentionally walked Andruw Jones, who leads the majors with 24 home runs.

Franco, batting for LaRoche against left-hander Valerio de los Santos, connected for his sixth homer.

Miguel Cabrera hit his 15th home run in the bottom half for Florida, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. The Marlins got an RBI double from Paul Lo Duca, and Alex Gonzalez extended his career-best hitting streak to 17 games.

Shortly after Cabrera’s homer, heavy rain began to fall. The game was called with one out in the eighth after a 34-minute delay – partly because the grounds crew was never able to get a troublesome tarp in place over the infield.

Ramirez (7-4) yielded one run and five hits in seven innings to win his fourth straight decision. He has beaten the Marlins twice in a week; Florida has managed just one run and eight hits in 12 innings against him this season.

Marlins starter Brian Moehler (2-6) allowed seven hits and three earned runs in seven innings. His ERA rose to just 3.05, yet he’s winless in his last eight starts.

A pair of run-scoring groundouts by LaRoche and Estrada in the fourth gave Ramirez a 3-1 lead. Kelly Johnson singled and Giles doubled to open the inning, and both scored on soft grounders to second.

Ramirez escaped trouble in the fifth. Gonzalez singled, and walks to Luis Castillo and Cabrera loaded the bases – but Carlos Delgado grounded out to end the threat.

Furcal tripled leading off the game and scored two batters later on Giles’ short sacrifice fly. Juan Pierre, the Marlins’ center fielder, caught the ball about 75 feet behind second base, but Furcal beat the throw home.

The Marlins tied it in the second on Lo Duca’s double to right-center.

Notes: Florida intentionally walked Jones twice; both were booed. … During his hitting streak, Gonzalez’s batting average has risen only from .272 to .280. … Furcal saved a run in the seventh at shortstop, going far to his left to scoop up Castillo’s grounder and throwing to first just in time; Jeff Conine, who had a pinch-hit single on his 39th birthday and reached third on a throwing error, would have scored if Castillo was safe. … Delgado hit into an unusual 2-unassisted groundout to end the first. He chopped a ball that ricocheted off his body, but plate umpire Bruce Dreckman somehow called the ball fair and Estrada tagged Delgado out. … It was the third time this season Furcal had multiple extra-base hits, the first since April 15.

AP-ES-06-27-05 2213EDT

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