The two pitchers look for better performances Wednesday when the Marlins and Cardinals meet in the deciding contest of their three-game series at Dolphin Stadium.
Willis (7-8, 4.81 ERA) went 7-3 in his first 12 starts, but is 0-5 with a 4.75 ERA in his last eight, allowing opponents to hit .303. The left-hander struggled in his first game after the All-Star break on Friday, allowing eight runs—three earned—and eight hits over 3 2-3 innings in a 14-10 defeat to Washington.
He walked three and didn’t record a strikeout to fall below .500 for the first time this season.
“Just played terrible,” said Willis, who was booed by the home crowd. “Sometimes you throw the ball well and you lose. Tonight, I just played terrible.”
Willis hasn’t gotten much support during his slump, though, as the Marlins (45-49) have scored three or fewer runs in all but one of his last eight outings. It may be difficult for Willis to bounce back at home as he is 2-6 with a 5.07 ERA in 11 starts there and hasn’t won since April 23.
Willis is 1-2 with a 4.01 ERA in four career starts versus the Cardinals (42-48). While Willis has struggled over the last six weeks, Wells (3-12, 6.25) has yet to get it going this season.
Wells is tied with Pittsburgh’s Paul Maholm for the most losses in the majors and the Cardinals are a dismal 2-14 in his 16 starts. He was demoted to the bullpen last month and struggled in his return to the rotation on Friday when he gave up six runs—four earned—and eight hits over one-plus inning in a 13-3 defeat to Philadelphia.
“He was not good,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He set a bad tempo for us. We needed him to go deeper in the game and he didn’t. He didn’t pitch well.”
The right-hander has pitched even worse on the road, going 0-8 with a 9.82 ERA in his last eight starts, allowing opponents to hit .340. Wells is 3-3 with a 2.36 ERA in seven career starts versus the Marlins, losing his last two decisions against them.
He will try to slow Florida’s Hanley Ramirez, who is batting .425 (17-for-40) with three homers and eight RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak. The Marlins’ shortstop hit a double, a homer and finished with three RBIs in Tuesday’s 4-0 win.
“We’re at home now so we need to win games like this,” said Ramirez, who is batting .441 (15-for-34) during his career versus St. Louis. “I like to do what I can to help motivate my team.”
Florida won for just the second time in the last nine meetings between these teams. The Marlins are winless in their last six series with the Cardinals and are trying to take a set from them for the first time since Aug. 5-7, 2003.
St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to seven games on Tuesday, batting .393 (11-for-28) during that stretch, but the Cardinals were shut out for the ninth time this season.