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Willis gets no-decision despite eight solid innings

7/2/2003

MIAMI (AP) -- Rafael Furcal's leadoff homer in the 13th inning
helped the Atlanta Braves avoid a three-game sweep with a 2-1 win
over the Florida Marlins on Wednesday night.

Marlins rookie left-hander Dontrelle Willis allowed only one run
in eight innings, but failed to match a club record by winning his
eighth straight start, leaving with the score tied 1-1.

Gary Sheffield had three hits for the Braves, who managed just
three runs in 30 innings in this series against Florida before
Furcal connected off Armando Almanza (4-5) for his 11th homer of
the season.

Kevin Gryboski (5-3) earned the win in relief. John Smoltz, the
sixth Atlanta pitcher, allowed a leadoff single in the 13th but got
the final three outs for his 30th save.

Mike Lowell hit his 26th home run of the season in the fourth
inning for Florida, which was trying to sweep a three-game series
from Atlanta for the first time since September 1996.

Atlanta tied it in the sixth -- ending Willis' streak of 31 1-3
consecutive scoreless home innings. Furcal drew a leadoff walk,
advanced to second on a ground ball, took third on a wild pitch and
scored on Sheffield's bloop single to center.

Willis yielded six hits and one run while striking out six. He
lowered his ERA to 2.13 for the season; in his last eight starts,
it's 0.94.

Atlanta starter Horatio Ramirez, another rookie left-hander,
matched a season-high with seven innings. He allowed six hits and
one run. Ramirez has won six straight decisions since the Marlins
beat him 7-4 on April 11.

The Braves, who entered the game with baseball's best record
against left-handed starters (14-4), failed to take advantage of
two other decent scoring opportunities against Willis, who faced
Atlanta for the first time.

Willis gave up a leadoff double in the third to Vinny Castilla,
who was sacrificed to third. But Castilla was stranded after Willis
struck out the next two batters, Furcal and Marcus Giles.

Consecutive singles by Javy Lopez and Julio Franco to open the
fifth didn't bother Willis, either. He got Castilla to hit into a
double play, then induced an inning-ending groundout from Ramirez.

Earlier Wednesday, Willis was named both the National League's
pitcher and rookie of the month for June -- the first player to
sweep both awards since baseball instituted the monthly rookie
honor in 2001.

Game notes
Willis' winning percentage entering the game (8-1, .889)
was the best in the National League; Ramirez (7-2, .778) was tied
for second. ... The Marlins, who allowed 45 runs in three games in
Boston last weekend, gave up four in the three games with the
Braves. ... Two milestones were recorded in the game: Atlanta LF
Chipper Jones went 1-for-5, giving him 1,500 career hits. Florida C
Ivan Rodriguez's first-inning single was his 1,800th career hit.
... Before Willis, the last rookie to win the NL's pitcher of the
month award was Hideo Nomo (June 1995). ... Florida sold 9,023
tickets for the game on Wednesday, the second-highest walkup crowd
in team history. The announced attendance was 30,634, the Marlins'
largest since Opening Day and nearly 18,000 fans higher than
Florida's average home crowd this season.