The Chicago Cubs are having a rough week.
Willis hopes to make Chicago manager Dusty Baker regret leaving him off the NL All-Star team as he takes the mound against the struggling Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Chicago center fielder Corey Patterson was put on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a torn ligament in his left knee, and will miss the rest of the season. Patterson tore his ACL while legging out a grounder against St. Louis on Sunday.
He has been enjoying a breakout season in his second full year in the majors, hitting .298 with 13 homers, 55 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 83 games.
“It’s a rough day. You feel sick to your stomach because he has made so much progress, he is playing so well,” Baker said.
Baker had the difficult task of picking the NL All-Star reserves Sunday. The Cubs’ first-year skipper, who managed the San Francisco Giants to the World Series last year, left Willis off the NL squad despite an 8-1 record and 2.13 ERA in 11 starts.
The 21-year-old southpaw has been sensational for Florida since being called up from Double-A Carolina on May 9. Willis was selected the NL’s pitcher and rookie of the month for June—the first player to sweep both awards since baseball instituted the monthly rookie honor in 2001
“With that energy that he brings to the mound, guys feed off it,” said Atlanta Braves All-Star outfielder Gary Sheffield. “It’s good to see young players come in the way he’s coming in and taking the league by storm.”
Willis is undefeated in his last eight starts, going 7-0 with 51 strikeouts and an 0.94 ERA over that span. He had won seven straight starts before failing to qualify for a decision his last time out.
A solid outing by Willis at Wrigley Field could be doubly painful for Chicago management to watch.
Willis was drafted by the Cubs in the eighth round of the 2000 Amateur Draft. But he was sent to the Marlins with pitchers Julian Taverez, Jose Cueto and catcher Ryan Jorgenson in March 2002 for reliever Antonio Alfonseca and starter Matt Clement.
Alfonseca has flopped for the Cubs, failing to reclaim the closer job after coming of the disabled list on May 5. Alfonseca had 19 saves last season, but is 0-1 with no saves and a 5.64 ERA in 31 appearances this year.
Clement held the Marlins to three runs over 6 1-3 innings and hit a two-run double to lead the Cubs to a 6-3 win Monday.
STANDINGS: Marlins - 4th place, 11 1/2 GB, NL East. Cubs - 2nd place (tied),1 1/2 GB, NL Central.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Willis (8-1, 2.13 ERA). Willis yielded six hits and one run while striking out six as the Marlins lost to Atlanta 2-1 on Wednesday. Florida is 9-2 in games Willis has started.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Carlos Zambrano (6-7, 3.36 ERA). The 22-year-old gave up five runs and eight hits over seven innings as Chicago lost to Philadelphia 12-2 on Thursday. The right-hander is 1-3 with a 3.87 ERA over his last seven starts.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 1-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - C Rodriguez is 23-for-52 with four home runs and 20 RBIs over the last 13 games. … 3B Lowell is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. … 1B Derrek Lee has four home runs in his last 10 games. Cubs - RHP Joe Borowski has 17 saves in 20 chances. He had two career saves heading into this season. … OF Tom Goodwin started in place of Patterson on Monday. He went 3-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two stolen bases. … OF Sammy Sosa is batting .333 against left-handed pitching this season, but has managed just one homer against a southpaw.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 21-25 on the road; Cubs - 22-21 at home.
INJURIES: Marlins - RHP Kevin Olsen (concussion), 15-day DL; RHP Tim Spooneybarger (arm), 15-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendicitis), 60-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL. Cubs - OF Patterson (knee), 15-Day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL.
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