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Willis tops Mets, picks up major league-leading 22nd win

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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NEW YORK -- Before Thursday night's game, Florida manager Jack McKeon looked around the locker room at his available hitters and decided the best option for the Florida Marlins lineup was to have pitcher Dontrelle Willis bat seventh.

It was more important to have Willis on the mound.

The left-hander with the corkscrew windup and delivery won his major league-leading 22nd game and kept Florida's NL wild-card hopes alive, allowing five hits over eight innings in a 2-1 victory over the New York Mets.

It was a win the Marlins had to have after they lost the first two games of this series. Florida remained four games behind Houston and two behind Philadelphia in the wild-card race after the Astros beat Pittsburgh 2-1 and the Phillies shut out Atlanta 4-0 in day games. All three teams have nine games to play.

Willis (22-9) will pitch two of those nine. There's no telling where McKeon will have him hit, though, with three regulars injured and September callups Joe Dillon and Robert Andino, who hit eighth and ninth Thursday, filling in at second base and shortstop.

"I hit him seventh because he's a pretty good hitter," McKeon said. "He's got more RBI than the two guys behind him. He's got more at-bats and more hits than either one of them have in their whole career. It was not a tough choice."

Willis had one hit in four at-bats, making him 22-for-88 and keeping his season average at .250.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last pitcher to bat seventh or higher was Montreal's Steve Renko, who did it on Aug. 26, 1973, and went 2-for-3 against San Diego.

When Willis heard McKeon's plan, he said he was shocked.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "Seventh? I want the lineup card. I don't think anybody will believe that. I was nervous about it. I had fun. The guys were making fun of it, saying he would have me bat leadoff."

Don't laugh.

"He upped the ante," McKeon said. "He might go higher. I've got no problem with that."

Of more concern to McKeon was the job Willis did on the Mets. He struck out seven and walked two. The biggest strikeout came in the seventh when he got pinch-hitter Mike Piazza to leave two runners stranded.

"Dontrelle came through again," McKeon said. "I don't get tired of saying it. He keeps them in line and we always score a lot for him. Last time, we got him two and he couldn't hold it."

That was his only loss in nine decisions since Aug. 1, and without him, the Marlins almost certainly would be done.

"We're still in the race," Willis said. "We've just got to win out, starting today."

Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 38th save.

Mets starter Pedro Martinez (15-8) got in a jam in the third inning when he hit Dillon with a pitch leading off. After a sacrifice, Juan Pierre beat out an infield hit and then stole second, his 53rd steal of the season. Jeff Conine grounded out, scoring Dillon. Carlos Delgado was intentionally walked and Martinez came back from a 3-0 count to strike out Juan Encarnacion.

Ramon Castro tied it for the Mets in the bottom of the inning when he led off with his eighth homer on a 2-1 pitch.

Andino opened the fifth with a double to right-center. Pierre sacrificed him to third. With the infield drawn in, Conine bounced out. Delgado was again walked intentionally. This time, though, Encarnacion crossed up the strategy with a double into the left-field corner, giving Florida a 2-1 lead.

Willis got in trouble in the fourth when Carlos Beltran singled with one out and Dillon booted a grounder to second, giving the Mets runners at first and third. But David Wright banged into an inning-ending double play

Martinez was on a pitch count and left the game after just five innings, trailing 2-1. He threw 75 pitches, 46 for strikes.

"We went in with the notion of not having him pitch more than five or seven and 80-something pitches or whatever," manager Willie Randolph said. "He went 120 last time out. He's been really banged up."

Martinez, as usual, endorsed Randolph's decision.

"I'm OK for this time of year," he said. "This is the time of year where you need actually a little rest. I've pitched a lot. Willie's my man. He knows how I am when I'm totally fine and when I am not."

Notes

  • The same two banks of lights that went out Wednesday night causing a 12-minute delay were dark at the start of the game Thursday.
  • Jose Reyes, who stole two bases Wednesday night against Florida C Paul Lo Duca, was thrown out by Lo Duca in the third.
  • Beltran had two hits.
  • Delgado was walked intentionally three times.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Dontrelle Willis allows a run and five hits while striking out seven over eight innings. (AP)
Dontrelle Willis allows a run and five hits while striking out seven over eight innings. (AP)

Players of the Game
Florida

J. Pierre
AB 4
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 0
Florida

D. Willis
IP 8.0
H 5
ER 1
BB 2
K 7
 

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Florida Marlins
Juan Pierre, CF4020000 .271
Jeff Conine, LF-1B5011002 .310
Carlos Delgado, 1B2010301 .306
    Alex Gonzalez, PR0000000 .264
    Todd Jones, P0000000 .500
Juan Encarnacion, RF5011016 .291
Paul Lo Duca, C4000002 .288
Mike Lowell, 3B2010200 .236
Dontrelle Willis, P4010012 .250
    Chris Aguila, LF0000000 .209
Joe Dillon, 2B3100012 .154
    Luis Castillo, 2B0000000 .301
Robert Andino, SS3110001 .208
Totals322825316 
Batting
2B - Juan Pierre (16, Heilman), Carlos Delgado (40, P. Martinez), Juan Encarnacion (27, P. Martinez), Robert Andino (4, P. Martinez)
3B - Jeff Conine (2, Padilla)
SH - Juan Pierre (9), Robert Andino (1)
RBI - Jeff Conine (32), Juan Encarnacion (76)
2-OUT RBI - Juan Encarnacion (36)
SB - Juan Pierre (53, 2nd base off P. Martinez/Castro)
Team LOB - 11
Fielding
DP - Andino-Dillon-Delgado
E - Joe Dillon (1, Misplayed grounder)
Florida Marlins
Dontrelle Willis (W,22-9) 8511271 2.44
Todd Jones (S,38) 1100020 1.57
Pitches-Strikes - Dontrelle Willis 111-70, Todd Jones 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dontrelle Willis 8-8
Batters Faced - Dontrelle Willis 30, Todd Jones 4
New York Mets
Jose Reyes, SS4010000 .275
Miguel Cairo, 2B4000011 .241
Carlos Beltran, CF4020010 .272
Cliff Floyd, LF4000021 .274
David Wright, 3B4010011 .309
Victor Diaz, RF4010001 .259
Ramon Castro, C3111122 .256
Chris Woodward, 1B2000111 .286
Pedro Martinez, P1000000 .087
   a- Jose Offerman, PH1000001 .216
    Juan Padilla, P0000000 .000
   b- Mike Piazza, PH1000012 .257
    Aaron Heilman, P0000000 .000
Totals321612910 
a-hit into fielder's choice for P. Martinez in the 5th
b-struck out for Padilla in the 7th
Batting
HR - Ramon Castro (8, Willis)
RBI - Ramon Castro (41)
CS - Jose Reyes (14, 2nd base by Willis/Lo Duca)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Reyes-Cairo-Woodward, Padilla-Reyes-Woodward
E - Miguel Cairo (5, Wild throw)
New York Mets
Pedro Martinez (L,15-8) 5622210 2.82
Juan Padilla 2100110 1.88
Aaron Heilman 2100210 3.34
IBB - Delgado by Pedro Martinez, by Delgado, Delgado by Aaron Heilman
HBP - Dillon (by Pedro Martinez)
Pitches-Strikes - Pedro Martinez 75-46, Juan Padilla 33-21, Aaron Heilman 31-16
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Pedro Martinez 7-6, Juan Padilla 3-2, Aaron Heilman 2-3
Batters Faced - Pedro Martinez 23, Juan Padilla 8, Aaron Heilman 9
Game Information
Attendance - 25093
Game Time - 2:18
Temperature - 76
Umpires - Home - Dana DeMuth, First Base - Marty Foster, Second Base - Lazaro Diaz, Third Base - Bob Davidson