Marlins 8, Braves 7

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MIAMI (AP)—Count on Dontrelle Willis for an unorthodox delivery.

Awaiting the imminent birth of his first child, Willis went about his business Monday, pitching 6 2-3 innings and contributing two hits to help the Florida Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 8-7.

Willis (4-1) became the NL’s first four-game winner, then went to the hospital to become a father. He said doctors planned to induce labor Monday night.

Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur of the Braves were among those offering him congratulations during the game.

“Even in the heat of battle, they understand the situation,” Willis said. “They were like, `Man, you’re a tough guy to be out here tonight.’ I was like, `Nah, just stupid.”’

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez gave Willis the lineup card as a souvenir.

“Keep it so that six years down the road you can tell your daughter, `I got two hits and I got a win, and then I watched you get born,”’ Gonzalez recalled telling Willis. “Easy day.”

Willis accompanied his wife, Natalee, to the doctor Monday afternoon and said he was prepared to skip the game if she was dilating. But the couple were told Natalee’s delivery was still hours away.

“She told me, `Go have fun. I’ll be fine,”’ Willis said. “She’s a tough girl. I couldn’t do anything without her.”

The expectant father with the big windup wasn’t at his best, giving up eight hits and five runs. But he won his fourth consecutive start against Atlanta and improved to 13-2 in April.

Batterymate Miguel Olivo hit a three-run homer, his first. Dan Uggla homered and drove in three runs, giving him three homers and nine RBIs in two games.

Willis provided some offense, too. He singled in the second inning, then hit a standup triple and scored during the Marlins’ six-run fifth.

“When I hit it, I was like, `Oh, God, I’ve got to run,”’ Willis said. “That piano got on my back around second.”

Marlins rookie Henry Owens, trying to stake a claim to the closer’s job, took an 8-5 lead into the ninth and retired the first two batters. He then allowed a solo homer to Jones and consecutive doubles to Andruw Jones and Francoeur.

Renyel Pinto struck out Brian McCann on a 3-2 pitch for his first save.

“It’s good to know we kept fighting back,” Francoeur said. “If we had one more inning, I think we would have won the ballgame.”

Willis watched the tense finish from the dugout, and was soon headed for the hospital, eager to join his wife and ready to pull an all-nighter.

“I’ve got some good DVDs,” he said. “She told me to bring some funny stuff.”

Florida won its third consecutive game after losing six in a row, while the Braves lost their lead in the NL East, falling a half-game behind the New York Mets.

Francoeur went 4-for-5, including his fourth homer, and drove in four runs to give him 22 RBIs. Andruw Jones drove in two runs on his 30th birthday.

Kyle Davies (0-1) threw 90 pitches in four-plus innings. He walked six and gave up five runs, and his career ERA in six games against the Marlins rose to 9.68.

“It felt like the first three games of spring training,” Davies said. “If you told me, `Throw three straight strikes,’ I couldn’t have done it.”

The Marlins stranded eight in the first four innings before Olivo broke a 2-all tie with his first homer, which skipped off the top of the scoreboard. Willis tripled off Oscar Villareal and scored on a singled by Hanley Ramirez, and Uggla’s homer made it 8-2.

Uggla was glad to give Willis the run support.

“He’s the heart and soul of this team, and nobody ever forgets that,” Uggla said. “He got a win, and now he’s about to become a daddy. You can’t ask much more than that.”


Willis started his 132nd game, breaking the team record he shared with A.J. Burnett. … Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 10 games, longest by a Florida player this year. … Olivo hit the Marlins’ second three-run homer of the year—and the second in as many games. … Francoeur improved his average against Willis to .417 (10-for-24). … The Marlins improved to 1-4 in one-run games.

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