Casey stroked a two-out single in the seventh inning to break up Willis’ bid for a perfect game, then hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the ninth Wednesday that lifted the Cincinnati Reds over the Florida Marlins 3-1.
Casey’s homer off left-hander Matt Perisho—brought in to face the major leagues’ leading hitter—helped cap a three-game sweep of Florida, which hadn’t been swept at home since San Francisco took three straight in May 2003.
Perisho had retired Casey in all five of his previous tries. The sixth landed in the right-field seats.
“Unbelievable, huh? There’s not much else you can say about him,” said Reds manager Dave Miley, whose team improved its NL-best record to 32-21. “The guy busts up the perfect game … then gets the big hit.”
“When we went on the field in the seventh, I’m thinking, wow, we’re only nine outs away from a perfect game,” the Marlins’ Mike Lowell said. “Then we went from a perfect game to a big loss.”
Willis carried a perfect game into the seventh and wound up allowing only three hits and one run over eight innings against a team that scored 16 runs in the first two games of the series.
“He pitched a magnificent game,” Florida manager Jack McKeon said. “We didn’t give him any runs, so he had no margin for error.”
Willis retired the first 20 batters, yet lost his bid for history—and a 1-0 lead—in the seventh.
Casey, who raised his average to .391, hit a two-out single to left field, a soft opposite-way liner that tailed away from Jeff Conine—who had no chance to make a play on the ball.
“When you’re going good like that, you’re going to get those flares,” Willis said. “I thought the whole game I kept him off balance.”
“They’re one of the best teams in the NL, and we feel like we’re one of the best too,” Casey said. “It was just a good series. It was a big series for us to get a sweep. Anytime you go into Florida and play a team like the Marlins, it’s going to be tough to sweep these guys. But we feel good about the way we’re playing.”
Casey is carrying the Reds these days. Cincinnati is 12-3 in its last 15 games, a stretch that has seen Casey raise his batting average 22 points by going 27-for-60, a .450 clip.
“It would be Casey to get the hit,” Pierre said. “The guys been so hot.”
Reds starter Cory Lidle wasn’t as dominant as Willis, but ultimately just as effective. Lidle allowed one run in seven innings, scattering seven hits, striking out six and lowering his ERA—up to 5.24 three starts ago—to 4.42.
“He really kept us in the game,” Casey said. “If they scored any more runs the way Dontrelle with pitching today, we were in trouble.”
Willis was pitching to a catcher, Matt Treanor, who was making his major league debut after being called up Wednesday morning, arriving about 3 1/2 hours before the game and borrowing equipment because his luggage got lost somewhere between Albuquerque and the ballpark.
Treanor, a minor leaguer for 11 years, had a memorable day—and not only because of Willis’ performance. He singled in the fifth, his first official at-bat, moved to second on Willis’ sacrifice bunt and scored two batters later on Pierre’s two-out single to center field for a 1-0 Florida lead.
Treanor said he’s keeping the game’s lineup card and the ball that he got his first hit with.
“I’m not a big memorabilia guy. … But I think I’m going to keep those twothings,” Treanor said.
Willis and Lidle each threw exactly 100 pitches. … Marlins SS Alex Gonzalez lost control of his bat on a swing in the sixth inning. It sailed into the stands behind the third-base dugout, striking a man in the head. The man, who was bleeding, was escorted from his seat by security personnel. … The Reds are 15-4 when Ryan Freel leads off, 17-17 when Jimenez does. Freel led off each game of the series in Florida. … Casey has hit safely in 19 of his last 21 games. … Lowell had a nine-game hitting streak snapped, as did 1B Hee SeopChoi.