Talking Bout Willis

Dontrelle Willis should be well-rested as he looks to get back on track.

The left-hander makes his first start since leaving his most recent outing with a tight left forearm when the Florida Marlins host the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.

Willis (7-6, 4.90 ERA), who has lost his last three decisions, threw just 34 pitches and was finished after one inning of Florida's 7-5 win over the Chicago White Sox last Tuesday.

Oddsmakers have made Florida -170 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 62% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh +160  (View MLB Bet Percentages).

He allowed four runs and three hits - including a three-run homer - while walking three in an outing that matched the shortest of his career.

"This is pretty much what happens when you throw a lot of innings,'' said Willis, 0-3 with a 5.14 ERA in four starts since beating the Chicago Cubs on May 29. "I didn't feel good, the tightness, but I felt I could get guys out. They made the decision and you have to look at it in the long run. Obviously I wasn't happy, but they're looking out for me.''

The left-hander pitched 459 2/3 innings over the previous two seasons, and has thrown 97 1/3 in 16 starts this year. He threw 197 innings in 2004.

Willis was scheduled to oppose Minnesota ace Johan Santana in a tantalizing matchup Sunday, but with the Marlins having an off-day Monday, his start was pushed back to Tuesday to give him two more days' rest. Willis will be trying to help the Marlins (36-40) avoid a third straight loss.

"I'm one of those guys that will go out there until the wheels fall off,'' Willis said, "and I don't think they want this wheel to fall off.''

Willis, who has never missed a start due to injury, is 2-3 with a 2.82 ERA in seven starts against the Pirates and allowed two runs in six innings of a 7-0 loss at Pittsburgh on May 14.

Dan Uggla and Miguel Cabrera homered in the Marlins' 7-4 defeat Sunday, Florida's second straight after winning three in a row.

Pittsburgh (31-44) fell 4-3 in 10 innings to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday to match a season high with its fifth consecutive loss. The Pirates are 1-5 on their nine-game road trip.

The Pirates have struggled at the plate during the skid, batting .199 while being outscored 29-8.

"You're not going to see us physically lay down," first baseman Adam LaRoche told the Pirates' official Web site. "That's not the way this clubhouse is. That's not what this team is about."

Though Pittsburgh split a four-game set with the Marlins from May 14-17, it's lost three straight in Florida. The Pirates, 16-23 on the road, have dropped eight of nine away from home since winning two of three at Washington from June 5-7.

Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez went 1-for-4 on Sunday and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games. The second baseman is batting .353 (6-for-17) with three RBIs against the Marlins this season.

Paul Maholm (3-10, 5.01) looks to bounce back after allowing four earned runs and nine hits in seven innings of the Pirates' 7-0 loss at Seattle on Wednesday. The left-hander, 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA in two career starts against the Marlins, gave up five runs in six innings of a 9-3 defeat to them May 15.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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