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Father-to-be Willis pitches Marlins past Braves

April 24th, 2007 12:48 am by Associated Press



MIAMI - Count on Dontrelle Willis for an unorthodox delivery.


Awaiting the imminent birth of his first child, Willis went about his business Monday, pitching 6 2-3 innings and contributing two hits to help the Florida Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 8-7.


Willis (4-1) became the NL's first four- game winner, then went to the hospital to become a father. He said doctors planned to induce labor Monday night.


Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur of the Braves were among those offering him congratulations during the game.


"Even in the heat of battle, they understand the situation," Willis said. "They were like, ‘Man, you're a tough guy to be out here tonight.' I was like, ‘Nah, just stupid.'"


Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez gave Willis the lineup card as a souvenir.


"Keep it so that six years down the road you can tell your daughter, ‘I got two hits and I got a win, and then I watched you get born,'" Gonzalez recalled telling Willis. "Easy day."


Willis accompanied his wife, Natalee, to the doctor Monday afternoon and said he was prepared to skip the game if she was dilating. But the couple were told Natalee's delivery was still hours away.


"She told me, ‘Go have fun. I'll be fine,'" Willis said. "She's a tough girl. I couldn't do anything without her."


The expectant father with the big windup wasn't at his best, giving up eight hits and five runs. But he won his fourth consecutive start against Atlanta and improved to 13-2 in April.


Batterymate Miguel Olivo hit a three- run homer, his first. Dan Uggla homered and drove in three runs, giving him three homers and nine RBIs in two games.


Willis provided some offense, too. He singled in the second inning, then hit a standup triple and scored during the Marlins' six-run fifth.


"When I hit it, I was like, ‘Oh, God, I've got to run,'" Willis said. "That piano got on my back around second."


Marlins rookie Henry Owens, trying to stake a claim to the closer's job, took an 8-5 lead into the ninth and retired the first two batters. He then allowed a solo homer to Chipper Jones and consecutive doubles to Andruw Jones and Francoeur.


Renyel Pinto struck out Brian McCann on a 3-2 pitch for his first save.


"It's good to know we kept fighting back," Francoeur said. "If we had one more inning, I think we would have won the ballgame."


Willis watched the tense finish from the dugout, and was soon headed for the hospital, eager to join his wife and ready to pull an all-nighter.


"I've got some good DVDs," he said. "She told me to bring some funny stuff."


Florida won its third consecutive game after losing six in a row, while the Braves lost their lead in the NL East, falling a half-game behind the New York Mets.


Francoeur went 4-for-5, including his fourth homer, and drove in four runs to give him 22 RBIs. Andruw Jones drove in two runs on his 30th birthday.


Kyle Davies (0-1) threw 90 pitches in four-plus innings. He walked six and gave up five runs, and his career ERA in six games against the Marlins rose to 9.68.


"It felt like the first three games of spring training," Davies said. "If you told me, ‘Throw three straight strikes,' I couldn't have done it."


The Marlins stranded eight in the first four innings before Olivo broke a 2-all tie with his first homer, which skipped off the top of the scoreboard. Willis tripled off Oscar Villareal and scored on a singled by Hanley Ramirez, and Uggla's homer made it 8-2.


Uggla was glad to give Willis the run support.


"He's the heart and soul of this team, and nobody ever forgets that," Uggla said. "He got a win, and now he's about to become a daddy. You can't ask much more than that."


CHICAGO - Prince Fielder homered twice, including a 12th-inning drive that capped a comeback from a four-run deficit and led Milwaukee over Chicago.


Fielder's fourth homer of the season came with one out off Rocky Cherry (0-1), who entered to start the inning in his major league debut. Fielder has four multihomer games, including three against the Cubs, all at Wrigley Field.


The last-place Cubs (7-12), who got another uneven outing from Carlos Zambrano, led 4-2 before Fielder homered off Scott Eyre leading off the eighth. Milwaukee tied the game when Damian Miller walked with one out, and Geoff Jenkins and Craig Counsell singled. Right fielder Jacque Jones saved at least two runs with a diving grab on pinch-hitter Kevin Mench.


Carlos Villanueva (1-0) pitched four scoreless innings, escaping trouble in the 11th after Felix Pie doubled with one out. Alfonso Soriano flied out and pitcher Jason Marquis, pinch hitting for the second time this season, struck out.


Derrek Turnbow pitched the 12th for his first save. Milwaukee's bullpen allowed five hits in eight scoreless innings.


Soriano, who pinch hit in Sunday's 12-9, 10-inning loss to St. Louis after missing five games with an injured hamstring, returned to Chicago's starting lineup and was shifted from center field to left. Soriano went 2-for-6 with two runs scored.




NEW YORK - Carlos Delgado hit his first home run of the season and John Maine pitched into the eighth inning, leading the Mets over punchless Colorado.


Jose Valentin had a three-run homer and four RBIs, while Moises Alou went 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs to help the Mets rebound after losing two of three to division rival Atlanta at home last weekend.


Matt Holliday had his third consecutive three-hit game for Colorado, has lost 14 of 15 at Shea Stadium from 2003 on. The Rockies have not homered in six straight games, matching a franchise record that was accomplished twice in 2002.


After taking a no-hit bid into the seventh inning during his previous start Wednesday night at Florida, Maine (3-0) allowed seven hits in 7 2-3 innings.


Valentin connected in the second inning off Taylor Buchholz (1-1), making his first start of the year.



PHILADELPHIA - Jimmy Rollins hit a leadoff homer and fell a double shy of the cycle, and the Phillies had a season-high 20 hits.


Rollins homered, tripled, singled and drove in two runs in his first three at-bats and led the Phillies to their first three- game winning streak following a 4-11 start.


Chase Utley also homered, and Adam Eaton (2-1) gave up four runs and six hits in the first three innings, then didn't allow another run in the next three innings.


Craig Biggio also hit a leadoff homer, the first time this season leadoff batters went deep in the same game. Lance Berkman also homered for the Astros as every player on both teams wore jersey No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.


Houston's Chris Sampson (2-1) gave up seven runs and 14 hits in four-plus innings.


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