Rookie phenom Dontrelle Willis baffled hitters throughout the first half of the season. Opposing batters may finally be figuring him out.
Willis went 9-1 with a 2.08 in his first 13 starts, earning an All-Star appearance. Since the break, however, the always-animated 21-year-old is just 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA in seven starts.
“When he was successful, he was staying ahead of everybody,” Marlins managers Jack McKeon said. “Lately, he’s been getting behind.”
Willis, who grew up in the Bay area, had a disappointing showing in his homecoming Friday as he suffered a 6-4 loss in San Francisco. He lost his second straight start after allowing four runs and six hits over five innings, matching a career high with four walks while striking out just one.
“It’s a wakeup call for me to get my stuff back,” said Willis, who hasn’t won since Aug. 6 at St. Louis. “You can’t get down. You have to keep executing pitches and hopefully things will come around.”
The Marlins, who won 20 of 29 to start the second half, have lost seven of eight, including Wednesday’s 4-0 defeat.
Florida managed just three hits after being four-hit in a 4-3 loss in the series opener Tuesday.
“It was the same as last night, we didn’t get any hits,” McKeon said. “We need runs. We’re going to snap out of it, I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.”
The Marlins remain tied with slumping Philadephia Phillies for the the NL wild card lead. The Phillies also lost Wednesday, 9-6 at Montreal.
The Pirates, who had lost four in a row prior to this series, are going for their first sweep of the Marlins since May 29-31, 2000 at Three Rivers Stadium.
“I just wanted to get my feet wet, so getting those hits at the right time was a bonus,” said Bay, who didn’t arrive at PNC Park until 2 1/2 hours before gametime.
STANDINGS: Marlins - 2nd place (tied), 14 1/2 GB, NL East. Pirates - 4th place, 8 1/2 GB, NL Central.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Willis (11-4, 3.35 ERA). Willis has given up a home run in six straight starts. He gave up just three in his first 14 outings. He has never faced the Pirates.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Josh Fogg (7-7, 5.54 ERA). Fogg is 1-3 over his last six starts, allowing at least four runs four times. The right-hander gave up four runs and seven hits over five innings on Saturday, but didn’t receive a decision in the Pirates’ 7-6 loss at Milwaukee. Fogg is 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA in two career starts against Florida.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Marlins - Luis Castillo, .321 avg. and 85 runs; Mike Lowell, 32 HRs and 105 RBIs; Juan Pierre, 57 SBs. Pirates - Jason Kendall, .318 avg. and 72 runs; Reggie Sanders, 29 HRs, 72 RBIs and 9 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Pirates, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - The Marlins are 54-39 since McKeon took over for fired manager Jeff Torborg. … 2B Castillo is riding a 12-game hitting streak. … 1B Derrek Lee has one error in his last 58 games. Pirates - SS Wilson has a 14-game hitting streak. … RHP Pat Mahomes, who allowed two runs and two hits over five innings of the Pirates’ 4-3 win on Tuesday, was designated for assignment Wednesday. … C Kendall is hitting .423 (22-for-52) over his last 13 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 30-37 on the road; Pirates - 30-36 at home.
INJURIES: Marlins - OF Todd Hollandsworth (back), 15-day DL; LHP Armando Almanza (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Tommy Phelps (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendix), 60-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Kevin Olsen (concussion), 60-day DL; RHP Tim Spooneybarger (arm), 60-day DL. Pirates - RHP Salomon Torres (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Kris Benson (shoulder), 60-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL; INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; INF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL.