Dontrelle Willis is going to the All-Star Game after all.
Before he heads to Chicago, however, the 21-year-old rookie phenom will look to win his eighth straight decision when the Florida Marlins close their three-game series against the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” Willis said on Friday. “It’s an honor. I feel like I was picked right off the bat. I can’t really explain how it feels. I’m honored to play with the best in the world. I’ll just try to have fun.”
One of baseball’s biggest surprises in the first half of the season, the young left-hander has emerged as the Marlins’ top starter. However, he has not earned a decision in either of his last two outings.
On Tuesday, he worked 5 2-3 scoreless innings, giving up four hits in Florida’s 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs. He did not return after a rain delay.
Willis will now try to help the Marlins win for the sixth time in nine games. After taking Friday’s series opener 5-4, Florida fell 7-1 on Saturday.
STANDINGS: Marlins - 4th place, 12 1/2 GB, NL East. Expos - 3rd place, 11 1/2 GB, NL East.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Willis (8-1, 1.98 ERA). Willis’ lone loss this season came against the Expos when he allowed five runs and eight hits through three innings of a 6-4 defeat on May 20.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Claudio Vargas (6-4, 3.20 ERA). Vargas had won three consecutive starts before struggling in his most recent outing. In a 13-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, he gave up six runs and eight hits in seven innings. In two previous starts against the Marlins, the 25-year-old right-hander is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Marlins - Luis Castillo, .317 avg.; Mike Lowell, 27 HRs, 74 RBIs and 61 runs; Juan Pierre, 41 SBs. Expos - Vidro, .329 avg.; Orlando Cabrera, 13 HRs, 51 RBIs and 60 runs; Endy Chavez, 15 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Expos, 5-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - SS Alex Gonzalez did not play Saturday. He is day-to-day after straining his left hamstring on Friday. … RHP Ugueth Urbina was in uniform Saturday, but he did not pitch. He was acquired from the Texas Rangers in a trade for three minor leaguers Friday. … C Ivan Rodriguez is batting .377 (26-for-69) in his last 17 games. Expos - SS Cabrera is batting .326 (14-for-43) during a 10-game hitting streak. … Since June 10, Montreal is 3-13 in games decided by two runs or fewer. … The Expos have allowed 58 home runs in 38 games since June 1.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 23-27 on the road; Expos - 28-17 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. Expos - 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 15-day DL; OF Vladimir Guerrero (back), 15-day DL; RHP Luis Ayala (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Zach Day (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Scott Stewart (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL.