The Florida Marlins have played some of their best baseball this season with staff ace Dontrelle Willis on the mound. That’s bad news for a Milwaukee Brewers team trying to win its first series in nearly a month.
The Marlins look to salvage a split of their four-game set with the Brewers when the teams meet in Sunday’s finale at Miller Park.
Florida (27-29) has won nine of Willis’ 12 starts this season while giving him a major league-leading 70 total runs of support. The left-hander is trying to win his third straight decision after beating the Chicago Cubs 9-4 on Tuesday, when he gave up four runs and seven hits over seven innings.
“It’s definitely a family affair,” Willis told the Marlins’ official Web site. “That’s how I want to play the game of baseball, regardless if we win or lose. I want for everybody to feel like they are part of something.”
Willis (7-3, 4.83 ERA) is 5-1 with a 3.66 ERA in six road starts in 2007, and has won both of his career outings at Miller Park. His is 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA in four total games versus the Brewers (31-25), holding them to eight runs over 28 innings.
He will try to follow up Byung-Hyun Kim’s strong effort in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the NL Central leaders. The right-hander allowed just one run and three hits through six innings, before Matt Lindstrom got the final out in the seventh and recorded his first major league win.
Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer as part of a three-run eighth inning for the Marlins, who won for just the second time in six meetings this season with Milwaukee. Miguel Cabrera went 2-for-4 with another two-run homer to boost his batting average to .354 on the road.
“He’s swinging the bat,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez of Cabrera. “He’s a good hitter.”
However, Cabrera is just 2-for-15 with eight strikeouts during his career against Milwaukee starter Ben Sheets (5-3, 3.82). The right-hander has recorded six consecutive quality starts, including last Tuesday against Atlanta, when he allowed a season-high 11 hits but only three runs over six innings of a 5-4 victory.
Sheets, who gave up all of those runs in the first inning, felt fine after leaving his previous outing with a blister on his right middle finger.
“I had pretty good location, I just made a couple of mistakes early and they pounced on them,” said Sheets, who is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA in six home starts.
He has struggled in eight career games versus the Marlins, though, going 2-4 with a 3.42 ERA.
The Brewers, who won the first two games of this series before Saturday’s loss, are trying to snap a streak of six straight series defeats. They haven’t won a set since sweeping Washington in three games May 7-9.