Florida Marlins rookie manager Fredi Gonzalez wants Dontrelle Willis to stay true to himself. If the left-hander is his usual early-season self on Saturday, the Marlins have to like their chances to win.
Willis looks to continue his April dominance when Florida plays the middle game of its weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Willis (1-0, 1.50 ERA) is 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 16 career April starts - his best winning percentage and lowest ERA in any month. The ERA also is the lowest among active pitchers with at least eight lifetime April starts.
On Monday, he allowed two runs - one earned - over six innings of Florida’s 9-2 season-opening win at Washington, throwing 68 of his 100 pitches for strikes. Willis’ effort helped Gonzalez win his first game as a major league manager, and the left-hander praised his new skipper after the game.
“He told me, ‘You go out there and be you. You go out and work hard,’” Willis told the Marlins’ official Web site. “You’ve got to respect a manager that lets you be you.”
Willis is 6-5 with a 3.62 ERA in 16 career starts versus the Phillies.
He will face a Philadelphia (1-3) lineup which finally began producing in the season’s fourth game. Pat Burrell homered and had four RBIs and Jimmy Rollins added a two-run homer Friday night as the Phillies won 8-2, spoiling the Marlins’ (2-2) home opener.
The run total was one fewer than what Philadelphia had in first series of the season when it was swept by Atlanta.
“I knew we were going to win sooner or later,” said Phillies starter Jamie Moyer, who pitched 6 2-3 innings to earn the win.
Reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard, who led the majors with 58 home runs in 2006, still is searching for his first extra-base hit this season after managing just a single Friday night. However, Philadelphia’s cleanup hitter was walked twice - once intentionally - and Burrell capitalized both times with hits.
“This is a great lineup to hit fifth or even sixth,” Burrell said. “You’re going to get opportunities to drive in runs. That’s what I’m here to do.”
Cabrera went 1-for-4 at the plate, giving him at least one hit in all four games this season and a .571 batting average. He has struggled, however, against Saturday’s Phillies starter Brett Myers (0-0, 3.52).
Florida’s third baseman is a .237 (9-for-38) lifetime hitter against Myers with 12 strikeouts, his most versus any pitcher.
Myers pitched effectively in Monday’s season opener, limiting the Braves to three runs and four hits in 7 2-3 innings while striking out nine, but did not record a decision in a game the Phillies lost 5-3 in 10 innings.
The right-hander is 5-5 with a 4.44 ERA in 17 career starts against the Marlins.