Willis does it all for new wild-card front-runner

Associated Press
Published September 13, 2005

HOUSTON - Dontrelle Willis gave Florida the wild-card lead with an outstanding all-around effort.

The effervescent left-hander homered and earned his 21st win, pitching his seventh complete game this season in the Marlins' 8-2 victory Monday night over the Astros.

"He's a complete guy," Florida manager Jack McKeon said. "He hits, he fields, he pitches. With him in the lineup, it's like an extra bat."

McKeon was asked if there is anything Willis can't do.

"He probably is going to have to work on covering second base," McKeon said, smiling. "He's a gamer. He's a competitor. You almost expect him to go out and have a game like this every time. It's a surprise if it doesn't happen."

Florida moved a half-game ahead of the Astros in the wild-card standings.

Willis tied Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter for the major-league lead in victories and complete games by winning his sixth straight start. He allowed eight hits, struck out four and walked one in the opener of a key four-game series.

Willis hit a two-run shot off Scott Strickland in the sixth inning, giving the Marlins a 6-1 lead. It was his third career homer and first since April14, 2004, against Montreal in Puerto Rico. He also scored twice and has 11 RBIs this season. He hasn't lost since Aug.12 against San Francisco.

The pitcher has a batting average of .259 and an ERA of 2.49.

"He's doing something amazing out there this year," teammate Juan Pierre said. "He's playing both sides of the plate and you don't see that very often. Winning 21 games and hitting the way he is is unreal.

"He's a position player in a pitcher's body."

Willis still isn't satisfied.

"I continue to hurt my team with my bunting," he said. "I'm definitely going to work on that in the offseason.

"But I play hard. I definitely leave it all on the field every time. (Team management) is still upset at me for diving headfirst back to the base. But that's the only way I know to play."

PHILLIES 4, BRAVES 1: Eude Brito allowed three hits in six shutout innings in his third career start, keeping host Philadelphia in the hunt for the wild card. Pat Burrell had three hits and two RBIs, Jimmy Rollins extended his hitting streak to 18 games and three relievers allowed one run over three innings for the Phillies.

CARDINALS 4, PIRATES 3: Pinch-hitter John Rodriguez's ninth-inning single off Salomon Torres helped host St. Louis reduce its magic number for clinching the Central to four.

DODGERS 7, ROCKIES 0: Jeff Weaver won for the seventh time in eight decisions, pitching a three-hitter for his fifth career shutout to lead host Los Angeles.

REDS 5, CUBS 2: Javier Valentin and Wily Mo Pena homered off Greg Maddux on consecutive pitches to start the fifth, and Aaron Harang won his 10th with 81/3 strong innings for visiting Cincinnati.