Dontrelle Willis will try to revive Florida’s fading postseason hopes when he squares off against New York ace Pedro Martinez in the finale of a three-game series between the Marlins and Mets at Shea Stadium.
Florida has lost six of seven games to slip four games behind NL wild card-leading Houston. Perhaps the most crushing of those defeats came in Willis’ last start against Philadelphia on Saturday.
Carrying a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning on a three-hitter, Willis watched helplessly as the Phillies scored 10 runs in their final at-bat to prevent the left-hander from becoming baseball’s first 22-game winner this year.
“I’m disappointed in myself,” Willis said after watching normally reliable closer Todd Jones squander the lead. “I feel like I let my team down.”
The Marlins have suffered back-to-back heartbreaking defeats in this series, beginning with a 3-2, 12-inning defeat in Tuesday’s opener and a 5-4 setback Wednesday in which Miguel Cairo drove home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for New York.
“We’re basically down to our last gasp,” Florida’s Jeff Conine said.
Making matters worse, the Marlins may have lost All-Star Miguel Cabrera for the series finale. Cabrera was forced to leave Wednesday’s game in the first inning after fouling a ball off his left knee.
Cabrera, the league’s third-leading hitter at .321, completed the at-bat by striking out, but left with a contusion to his knee. That left the Marlins with three regulars out of the lineup as second baseman Luis Castillo (hamstring) and shortstop Alex Gonzalez (elbow) are also sidelined.
Cabrera was limping in the clubhouse and said he did not know if he could play Thursday against New York in what amounts to a must-win game for the Marlins.
“You see what we’re putting out there,” manager Jack McKeon said. “Give them credit. They’re scraping and scraping. We were just one hit away, which has basically been the story of our season, one hit away from breaking some games open.”
Martinez is coming off a brilliant performance, tossing his 17th career shutout in the Mets’ 4-0 victory over NL East-leading Atlanta on Friday night.
“I am a professional,” he said. “When the manager hands me the ball, I go out and do whatever possible to win the game. They asked me how I feel and I said I’m going for it. It was a complete game, a good game, everything I wanted. We all needed it.”