Willis, Marlins topple Pirates
Florida halted a nine-game losing streak in Pittsburgh, 6-3.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Florida Marlins usually save their worst performances for Pittsburgh. With Dontrelle Willis on the mound, they didn't even need one of his best efforts to win there.
Willis halted Florida's nine-game losing streak in Pittsburgh, getting homers from Carlos Delgado and Damion Easley to become the majors' first nine-game winner with a 6-3 victory over the Pirates on Thursday night.
Nothing new there, according to Marlins closer Todd Jones, who says Willis should be the NL starter in next month's All-Star game.
"He's been pretty much like a stopper for us all season," said Jones, who pitched the ninth for his ninth save in 10 opportunities. "It's the first of June, so we should be able to get him up to 11, 12 wins by the All-Star break."
Last win was in 2002
The Marlins hadn't won in Pittsburgh since an 11-1 victory on Sept. 8, 2002, and were in danger of being swept in PNC Park for the third consecutive season after the Pirates took the first three games of the four-game series.
"We're happy to get out of Pittsburgh -- at least we got one there and broke the curse, the jinx, whatever you want to call it," manager Jack McKeon said. "Now I can say I won one game in Pittsburgh."
Willis (9-2) had a streak of his own to end -- he was 0-2 in three career starts against the Pirates, who are below .500 at home (10-14) but are 12-4 there against the Marlins since PNC Park opened in 2001.
Florida's losing streak in Pittsburgh matched its second-longest in an opposing ballpark, trailing only an 11-game skid in Cincinnati from 1998-2000. The Marlins then won their next five there.
"Now we many never lose a game here," McKeon said.
Moved back to top spot
Until beating the Pirates for only the fifth time in their last 19 meetings, the Marlins had dropped seven of eight overall to fall a game behind Atlanta in the NL East. Florida moved back on top by a couple of percentage points following the Braves' 8-6 loss in Washington on Thursday night.
Easley, making only his second start of the season at third base to get an extra right-handed bat into the lineup against the left-handed Williams, hit his seventh homer and doubled. Delgado went 2-for-3 with his 11th homer and now has four homers and nine RBIs in seven games against Pittsburgh.
The Marlins led 2-0 after the homers by Delgado and Easley homers and 4-1 after a two-run sixth that included run-scoring singles by Willis and Luis Castillo off Dave Williams (5-5). Willis left after allowing nine hits in eight innings, working out of a jam in the eighth by getting Michael Restovich to pop up with the bases loaded and a run in.
"There's a reason he's 9-2," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Restovich swung at a first-pitch fastball from Willis, even though the left-hander had walked the previous two hitters to force in a run.
Key out in game
Getting Restovich was the key to the game, said Willis, who struck out three and walked two before being lifted after throwing 108 pitches. He had thrown only 76 pitches going into the eighth.
"They started to get me against the ropes, and a base hit there with the bases loaded, the momentum shifts back to them," Willis said. "The way they've been coming back and beating us and winning games every time they play against us, I need to try to get the guy out and keep the game for Jones to save."
Williams was 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in five May starts before giving up four runs and eight hits in six innings in only his second loss since April 30.
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