After one of their strongest hitting performances of the month, the Florida Marlins hope to keep their offense going for the NL leader in run support.
Florida (19-23) led the majors with 5.7 runs per game in April, but were averaging only 3.4 in May before an 8-4 win in Friday’s series opener.
The Marlins have scored 50 runs in 56 innings with Willis (5-3, 5.14 ERA) on the mound. The left-hander, though, didn’t get his customary support on Monday, when he held Pittsburgh to two runs and six hits in six innings but was charged with the loss in Florida’s 7-0 defeat.
“I wanted to go out today and have a positive start, and I feel like I did it, but we have to do it as a collective unit,” Willis said. “We can’t just have a couple of guys here and there doing it.”
It was Willis’ second straight loss after the Marlins had won six of his first seven starts. He hasn’t lost three outings in a row since a string of four straight defeats April 25-May 11, 2006.
On Friday, Jeremy Hermida went 2-for-5 for his third straight multihit game. He has hit safely in each of his five games since returning from a knee injury suffered in spring training, and is batting .471 (8-for-17).
“I shouldn’t say you concentrate more, but I think you do,” said Boone, who is 3-for-3 with the bases loaded this year. “You’re trying to get a good pitch to hit, and at the same time to be aggressive. A good situation to be in, bases loaded and less than two outs. As a hitter, you can’t ask for much more.”
The Devil Rays, meanwhile, had won a season-high four straight games before Friday’s loss.
Ty Wigginton hit solo home runs in the sixth and eighth innings for his second multihomer game of the month, and is batting .368 (7-for-19) in the first four games of a nine-game homestand. He is 8-for-23 (.348) in his career against Willis.
Wigginton’s homers helped the Devil Rays (18-23) cut a seven-run deficit to four, before they lost for the sixth time in their last eight interleague games.
“I love the way our guys came back,” said manager Joe Maddon, whose team leads the majors with 15 come-from-behind wins this season. “It’s tough to keep coming back from deficits.”
Tampa Bay will look to get back on track with Jae Seo (2-3, 7.26) taking the mound in search of his first back-to-back wins since he won five straight starts for the New York Mets from May 4-Aug. 24, 2005.
The right-hander started Tampa Bay’s win streak with seven shutout innings against Toronto in Sunday’s 2-1 victory.
Seo is 4-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 11 career games - 10 starts - against the Marlins.