In his 200th career start Monday, the left-hander will try to end his drought by beating the team that drafted him - the Chicago Cubs - in the opener of a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
Willis (0-4, 4.10 ERA) has allowed three runs or fewer in all but one of his 10 starts since being called up from the minors July 10, but he’s still seeking his first victory since June 5, 2010. He gave up three runs to Philadelphia over 6 2-3 innings Wednesday but was outdueled by Cliff Lee(notes) in a 3-0 defeat.
The southpaw hasn’t received more than three runs of support in any of his outings this season.
“Guys on the other side of the diamond are pitching well,” he said. “So I’m not frustrated.”
Willis would love to earn his long-awaited win against the Cubs (60-80), who selected him in the eighth round in 2000. Chicago traded him to Florida in 2002 as part of a deal for Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement, who were part of the club’s NL Central-winning team the next season.
Willis, meanwhile, was named rookie of the year with the Marlins in 2003, the year they defeated the Cubs in the NL championship series and claimed their second World Series title. Two years later, he won an MLB-best 22 games.
After being dealt to Detroit in December 2007, Willis earned just two wins over parts of three seasons with the Tigers due in part to a knee injury and anxiety issues.
The Reds (69-71) are the third organization he’s played for since the end of last May, and they could use his help in their attempt to finish with back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1999-2000.
Cincinnati heads into Chicago after winning two of three at St. Louis this weekend. Juan Francisco’s(notes) fourth hit of the game - and sixth RBI of the series - delivered the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of a 3-2 victory Sunday.
The Reds will try to keep their momentum going against the Cubs, who’ve lost 10 of 14.
Matt Garza(notes) (7-10, 3.64) will try to follow with his third victory in four starts and his first in four matchups with the Reds. The right-hander gave up two runs and scattered nine hits over 6 2-3 innings during a 5-2 win in San Francisco on Tuesday.
“You go out there and try to keep your team in the game no matter who you’re facing,” Garza said. “It’s just grinding it out. I need to pitch better so I can keep going out there.”
Garza is 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in three starts against Cincinnati - all this season. He gave up five runs over six innings during the lone matchup in Chicago, a 5-4 defeat May 6.
The Reds have won 17 of 23 against the Cubs, but they dropped two of three at Wrigley from Aug. 5-7.