They received some, anyway, from the Washington Nationals, whose five-game winning streak ended Monday night thanks to a combination of their own miscues, Willis' wizardry, and Florida's suddenly potent offense.
Willis extended his season-opening shutout streak to 24 innings before giving up three runs in the seventh, a half-inning after Florida batted around to build a big lead en route to a 9-4 victory over NL East leader Washington.
Willis must have been pleased, right? Not exactly.
"Regardless of how I'm doing, I want to stay in the game," Willis said. "I don't care if they are making a run at me or not. I didn't want to come out of that game."
Bidding to become the first pitcher to start a year with three complete-game shutouts since Luis Tiant in 1966 -- back when the Senators were still in D.C. -- Willis (3-0, 1.12 ERA) sailed through six innings, allowing just two hits.
"He's got an awkward, unorthodox delivery, and he has great movement on his ball," Washington catcher Gary Bennett said.
Popping gum, tugging on his flat brim and using that high leg kick, Willis was as impressive as he was in a five-hitter against Washington on April 8 and a three-hitter against Philadelphia on April 13.
"Why he dominates us, I don't know," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "Going against a guy like Willis, you can't afford to give runs away and give him the lead."
That's precisely what Washington did. The Marlins went up 2-0 in the fifth with a solitary single and an assortment of help: two four-pitch walks, an error and a passed ball. Bennett was busy in his second start of the season; he threw out two would-be base-stealers in the first, threw out another runner in the third, had two errors plus the passed ball, hit a double and was hit by a pitch.
"We didn't come out and do the little things tonight. We made a couple of mental mistakes," outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. "When you give them extra outs out there, it's going to be tough to beat them."
It was the kind of help Florida's offense has needed of late. The Marlins came in ranked ninth in the NL in runs and scored just 12 over their preceding four games.
"We're going to come around," Willis said. "You definitely see the consistency in the last couple days."
The visitors tacked on another two runs in the sixth with back-to-back doubles by Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion, who moved to third on a wild pitch by Tomo Ohka (1-2) and came home on Paul Lo Duca's sacrifice fly. Ohka allowed five walks, six hits and four runs -- three earned - in five-plus innings.
And then came the seventh -- the inning in which the Nationals had bat-around breakouts the previous two games. This time, the Marlins strung together six consecutive hits off Joe Horgan with two outs to increase a 4-0 edge to 9-0.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Just like that, the Marlins were in control -- and the Nationals' fans were silent for the first time during the city's first major-league homestand in 34 years. They finally made some noise when Alex Gonzalez's groundout ended the inning.
"They've got a good lineup," Horgan said, "but it doesn't matter what lineup you're facing if you don't throw pitches."
After waiting out the long top half, Willis was far less intimidating in the seventh. He faced four batters without recording an out, including Jose Vidro's homer to left. But the underworked Marlins bullpen -- the team leads the majors with five complete games -- finished up, with Antonio Alfonseca, Matt Perisho, Nate Bump and Jim Mecir getting the final nine outs.
All that against a Nationals team that entered the game with a .473 team slugging percentage, second in the majors.
After earning rookie of the year honors and helping the Marlins win the World Series in 2003, Willis took a step back last season, going 10-11 with a 4.02 ERA.
"For the most part, he's got a better grip on pitching -- how to get hitters out," manager Jack McKeon said. "He's much more focused."
|Dontrelle Willis, embraced here by manager Jack McKeon, gives up his first run after 24 innings. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Juan Pierre, CF||5||0||2||1||0||0||0||.321|
|Luis Castillo, 2B||1||1||1||0||4||0||0||.250|
|Carlos Delgado, 1B||5||1||2||1||0||1||3||.327|
|Miguel Cabrera, LF||5||2||3||1||0||0||1||.294|
|Juan Encarnacion, RF||5||2||2||2||0||1||2||.267|
|Mike Lowell, 3B||5||1||1||1||0||2||3||.173|
|Paul Lo Duca, C||1||1||1||2||2||0||0||.341|
|Alex Gonzalez, SS||4||0||0||0||0||0||4||.237|
|Dontrelle Willis, P||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||.222|
|Antonio Alfonseca, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Matt Perisho, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Jeff Conine, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.182|
|Nate Bump, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jim Mecir, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-struck out for Perisho in the 8th|
|2B - Carlos Delgado (5, Horgan), Miguel Cabrera (1, Ohka), Juan Encarnacion 2 (4, Ohka, Horgan), Mike Lowell (2, Horgan), Paul Lo Duca (2, Horgan)|
|SF - Paul Lo Duca (1)|
|SH - Dontrelle Willis (1)|
|RBI - Juan Pierre (4), Carlos Delgado (5), Miguel Cabrera (13), Juan Encarnacion 2 (12), Mike Lowell (7), Paul Lo Duca 2 (6)|
|2-OUT RBI - Carlos Delgado (3), Miguel Cabrera (3), Juan Encarnacion (7), Mike Lowell (5), Paul Lo Duca (3)|
|CS - Juan Pierre (2, 2nd base by Ohka/Bennett), Luis Castillo (1, 2nd base by Ohka/Bennett)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - A. Gonzalez-Delgado|
|Dontrelle Willis (W,3-0)||6||6||3||3||0||4||1||1.13|
|HBP - Bennett (by Antonio Alfonseca)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Dontrelle Willis 79-51, Antonio Alfonseca 5-2, Matt Perisho 9-6, Nate Bump 6-5, Jim Mecir 17-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dontrelle Willis 8-6, Nate Bump 1-1, Jim Mecir 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Dontrelle Willis 24, Antonio Alfonseca 2, Matt Perisho 2, Nate Bump 3, Jim Mecir 5|
|Brad Wilkerson, CF||4||0||1||0||0||2||3||.333|
|Gary Majewski, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Cristian Guzman, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.106|
|Jose Vidro, 2B||4||1||1||1||0||1||1||.313|
|Jose Guillen, RF||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.321|
|Vinny Castilla, 3B||4||2||2||0||0||1||0||.436|
|Nick Johnson, 1B||3||0||1||1||1||0||0||.310|
|J.J. Davis, LF||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.250|
|a- Terrmel Sledge, PH-LF||1||0||1||1||0||0||0||.308|
|Gary Bennett, C||2||0||1||0||0||0||0||.143|
|b- Brian Schneider, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.256|
|Tomo Ohka, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.500|
|T.J. Tucker, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|c- Tony Blanco, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.167|
|Joe Horgan, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|d- Ryan Church, PH-CF||2||0||0||0||0||0||3||.185|
|a-hit a sacrifice fly for Davis in the 7th|
|b-grounded into a double play for Bennett in the 9th|
|c-grounded out for Tucker in the 6th|
|d-fouled out for Horgan in the 7th|
|2B - Vinny Castilla (5, Mecir), Nick Johnson (4, Willis), Gary Bennett (1, Willis)|
|HR - Jose Vidro (3, Willis)|
|SF - Terrmel Sledge (1)|
|SH - Cristian Guzman (2)|
|RBI - Jose Vidro (12), Nick Johnson (5), Terrmel Sledge (7)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|DP - Bennett-Castilla, Guzman-N. Johnson|
|PB - Gary Bennett (1)|
|E - Gary Bennett 2 (2, Throwing error after WP)|
|Tomo Ohka (L,1-2)||5||6||4||3||5||2||0||4.76|
|WP - Tomo Ohka (1), T.J. Tucker (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Tomo Ohka 96-55, T.J. Tucker 12-9, Joe Horgan 23-17, Gary Majewski 29-20|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tomo Ohka 3-7, Joe Horgan 2-1, Gary Majewski 1-3|
|Batters Faced - Tomo Ohka 23, T.J. Tucker 3, Joe Horgan 9, Gary Majewski 7|
|Attendance - 24003|
|Game Time - 2:59|
|Temperature - 73|
|Umpires - Home - Ed Hickox, First Base - Marvin Hudson, Second Base - Field Culbreth, Third Base - Eric Cooper|