Willis' 3-Hitter Gives Marlins a Lift

Monday, September 11th 2006, 6:12 am
By: News On 6

Dontrelle Willis is one of the few Florida Marlins players to have felt the pressure of playing in the postseason.

Willis threw a three-hitter and matched a career high with 12 strikeouts in his first shutout of the season, carrying Florida to a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies that split a four-game series between NL wild-card hopefuls.

``He saved his best game for a real important time,'' manager Joe Girardi said.

The Marlins and Phillies, both 72-71, are now 2 1/2 games behind NL wild-card leader San Diego, which beat San Francisco 10-2 on Sunday night. The Giants also trail the Padres by 2 1/2 games.

Philadelphia's loss cut the New York Mets' magic number for clinching the NL East title to four. The Mets come to Florida for a three-game series starting Monday, when Marlins rookie Anibal Sanchez will make his first start since throwing a no-hitter against Arizona last week.

``It doesn't get any easier,'' Girardi said.

In other NL games, it was: San Diego 10, San Francisco 2; Milwaukee 4, Houston 0; Los Angeles 9, New York 1; Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 2; Atlanta 2, Chicago 1; Colorado 13, Washington 9; and Arizona 9, St. Louis 7.

At Miami, Willis (10-11) retired his last 13 batters, allowed no runners past second, tied A.J. Burnett for the Marlins' career record with eight shutouts and passed Burnett as the franchise leader in complete games with 15.

The left-hander threw 80 of his 122 pitches for strikes, walking only one.

``I've won big games. I've lost big games. I've been on both sides of the fence,'' said Willis, a rookie when the Marlins won the 2003 World Series. ``I don't feel a lot of pressure. I've had a taste of both sides, so I just want to go out there, have fun and do my thing.''

Padres 10, Giants 2

Brian Giles drove in four runs and visiting San Diego avoided a three-game sweep by the Giants.

Winning pitcher Woody Williams (8-5) doubled on the way to his third career three-hit game. He drove in a run and scored twice, helping the Padres improve to 2-11 in the last 13 meetings between the clubs.

San Diego increased its lead in the NL wild-card race to 2 1/2 games by ending a six-game losing streak to its division rival. The Padres also remained 1 1/2 games behind first-place Los Angeles in the NL West.

The Padres batted around in a four-run third against Matt Morris (10-13), who lost his second consecutive start.

Brewers 4, Astros 0

At Milwaukee, Dave Bush pitched a five-hitter and struck out a season-high 10 in his third career shutout, leading the Brewers past the Astros.

It was the second shutout this season for Bush (11-10), who earned his fifth win since Aug. 1. He has three complete games this year and six in his career.

Tony Graffanino and Mike Rivera homered for Milwaukee, which had lost 13 of 15 games overall and 10 of 14 against the Astros this season.

Wandy Rodriguez (9-9) lost his fourth straight decision dating to July 7, giving up three runs and five hits in five innings.

Dodgers 9, Mets 1

Eric Stults pitched with unusual poise for a 26-year-old making his first major league start, giving visiting Los Angeles a big September boost.

Stults limited the New York Mets to two hits in six innings, and Kenny Lofton gave him an early lead with a three-run triple off a shaky Steve Trachsel (14-7). Nomar Garciaparra added a three-run homer and four RBIs for the Dodgers.

Reds 4, Pirates 2

Bronson Arroyo pitched eight solid innings for his third straight win and Brandon Phillips drove in the go-ahead run to lead host Cincinnati.

The Reds were trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning when Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Dunn followed Rich Aurilia's leadoff walk with back-to-back singles off rookie left-hander Shane Youman (0-1), who was making his major league debut. Encarnacion scored and Dunn went to second on David Ross' sacrifice fly, and Phillips greeted reliever Josh Sharpless with a go-ahead single to right.

Arroyo (13-9) allowed four hits and two runs with no walks and seven strikeouts. Scott Schoeneweis pitched the ninth for his second save.

Braves 2, Cubs 1

Lance Cormier pitched seven solid innings and struck out a career-high 10, and Brian McCann doubled in the go-ahead run in the sixth to help Atlanta hand Chicago its ninth straight road loss.

Cormier (3-4) allowed eight hits and didn't walk anyone. Bob Wickman struck out two in the ninth for his 13th save in 14 attempts.

Juan Mateo (1-3) took the loss.

Rockies 13, Nationals 9

At Denver, Todd Helton hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the seventh inning, Matt Holliday homered and drove in three runs, and the Rockies outslugged the Nationals to sweep their season series.

Helton was hitless in his previous 10 plate appearances before hitting his fourth career slam. Holliday finished 3-for-5 with his 28th home run of the year.

Jose Mesa (1-5) retired the only batter he faced in the seventh to earn the win.

Chris Schroeder (0-2) took the loss.

Diamondbacks 9, Cardinals 7

Tony Clark and Eric Byrnes hit solo home runs in the eighth inning to lift host Arizona.

With two outs in the eighth, Clark and Byrnes belted consecutive pitches from Cardinals reliever Jorge Sosa (3-11).

Clark's pinch-hit homer, a 410-foot shot into the pool area in right-center field, broke a 7-7 tie. It was his sixth home run of the season and his second pinch-hit homer.

Luis Vizcaino (4-4) picked up the win with a scoreless eighth inning. Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his 15th save in 18 chances.