It will be hard for Florida rookie right-hander Dontrelle Willis to duplicate his last performance as the Marlins face the Oakland Athletics in the deciding game of their interleague series at Pro Player Stadium.
Florida is hoping Willis can continue what so far has been a solid rookie campaign. Last Saturday night, Willis pitched seven strong innings and hit his first major league home run, leading Florida over Cincinnati Reds 3-2.
Willis (3-1) allowed one run and five hits while striking out eight, and he also came through at the plate, delivering a solo home run to snap a 1-1 tie in the fifth.
It was the second win in less than a week for Willis, who beat the Reds on May 25. The 21-year-old rookie pitched eight innings en route to a 2-1 win in that contest.
Willis improved to 3-1 in five starts since being added to the rotation earlier this month.
“He did an outstanding job,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “That’s two games in a row. The first couple of games he was getting behind, but he’s learning, and he’s a competitor.”
Willis has at least seven strikeouts in four of his five big league starts for Florida, which has dropped four of six.
The A’s bounced back after dropping the series opener 13-2 on Tuesday night, as Scott Hatteberg’s RBI single in the eighth inning scored the go-ahead run in Wednesday’s 6-5 win.
Oakland center fielder Eric Byrnes went 0-for-4 in the win, and is now hitless in eight at-bats after seeing his career-high 22-game hitting streak end at 22 games in Tuesday’s defeat.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 2nd place, 6 GB, AL West. Marlins - 5th place, 13 GB, NL East.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Ted Lilly (3-3, 4.21 ERA). The left-hander is winless in his last three starts, and is seeking his first since winning at Detroit on May 13. In his last start, he allowed five runs—four earned—and six hits over seven innings of a 7-6 win at Kansas City, but didn’t figure in the decision. Lilly has made two career starts against the Marlins, and is 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Willis (3-1, 3.72 ERA). The left-hander has struck out 34 batters in his 24 1-3 innings of work this season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Byrnes, .323 avg.; Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, 10 HRs; Erubiel Durazo, 38 RBIs and 34 runs; Chavez, 5 SBs. Marlins - Alex Gonzalez, .333 avg.; Mike Lowell, 18 HRs, 49 RBIs and 38 runs; Juan Pierre, 24 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Athletics - 1-1. Marlins - 1-1.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - LHP John Halama has been dropped from the rotation, and RHP Aaron Harang will start Saturday in Philadelphia. Halama, who was 2-4 with a 4.79 ERA in nine starts, will go the bullpen. Harang made 15 starts last year and had a strong spring, but opened the season at Triple-A Sacramento and went 7-2 with a 2.38 ERA before his May 24 promotion. … OF Byrnes is hitting .364 against left-handers this season. … RHP Keith Foulke has 15 saves in 17 chances this season. Marlins - RHP Josh Beckett’s return from the DL has been pushed back until late June or July, manager Jack McKeon said. Beckett, on the DL with an elbow sprain since May 9, was expected back next week, but the Marlins don’t want to rush him too quickly. … C Rodriguez hasn’t homered since May 12 at San Diego. … 3B Lowell is hitting .302 against left-handed pitchers this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 14-16 on the road; Marlins - 16-14 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL. Marlins - RHP Beckett (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Abraham Nunez (hamstring), 60-day DL.