With their chances of making the playoffs growing more remote each day, the Florida Marlins hope Dontrelle Willis can provide yet another strong outing and help them avoid a five-game losing streak when they take on the New York Mets on Wednesday night.
Despite facing a Mets club that didn’t start a single regular position player Tuesday after clinching the NL East the previous day, the Marlins lost 3-2. The defeat dropped Florida five games behind Los Angeles for the wild card, and the Marlins (74-77) would also have to pass Philadelphia and San Francisco to earn the spot.
Florida is 1-6 since Sept. 12, with four losses coming against the Mets. The only win in that span was provided by Willis (11-11, 3.80).
The left-hander has won seven times this season following a Marlins loss. He prevented a third consecutive defeat for his team with 7 1-3 innings of four-run ball in a 6-4 win over Atlanta on Friday.
“I think we’re too young to notice (pressure),” Willis said. “We have a lot of guts. We showed (that) whatever happened last night happened. We have to go out there today. We’ve been proving it all year long. This is not a new occurrence. That’s the beauty of this whole team.”
Willis three-hit the Phillies in a 3-0 win in his previous start Sept. 10.
The left-hander will look to continue his domination of the Mets, against whom he is 10-2 with a 1.93 ERA in 15 starts—his highest win total against any team. He is 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA in seven starts at Shea Stadium, and 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA against New York this year.
Willis is looking to win three consecutive starts for the first time since taking six in a row from Aug. 17-Sept. 12, 2005.
Florida’s slim postseason hopes may depend even more on Willis after rookie right-hander Josh Johnson suffered a right forearm strain and is likely to miss the remainder of the season.
Johnson felt stiffness in his arm during his last outing Sept. 12, a 6-4 loss to the Mets that was delayed 82 minutes by rain in the second inning. He threw 56 pitches after the delay and was removed after going five shutout innings.
While Florida is fighting for its playoff life, the Mets (92-58) are already taking advantage of being the first team to qualify for the postseason. Manager Willie Randolph rewarded his team Tuesday by sending out his reserves, as the Mets’ lineup did not include anyone who started Monday night’s clincher.
New York still won despite having six players in the starting lineup hitting under .210.
“It felt like one of those spring training games with a long bus ride where none of the regulars make the trip,” said Mets left-hander Tom Glavine, who went eight innings for his 14th victory.
Oliver Perez (3-11, 6.61) gets the ball Wednesday as he tries to help the Mets to their fifth consecutive win over the Marlins at Shea.
The 25-year-old left-hander is 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA in five outings against Florida. The former Pirate’s only start against the Marlins as a Met came in his last outing Sept. 12, when he struck out a season-high 11 but allowed four runs in five innings of a 6-4 win. He didn’t get the decision.
“He was fine,” Randolph said. “He made a few mistakes out there, but it was a positive start for him.”
Perez is 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in four starts with the Mets since being acquired from Pittsburgh.