Willis strikes out in first at-bat


PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Dontrelle Willis stayed perfect on the
mound. He finally had trouble at the plate, though.

Willis allowed an unearned run in 6 2/3 innings, leading the
Florida Marlins to their 11th straight victory over the
Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 Tuesday night.

Willis (3-0) struck out in his first at-bat, snapping his streak
of 10 consecutive hits, dating to last season and including the

But Florida's hitters gave him all the runs he'd need to stop
the Phillies' four-game winning streak.

"It wasn't my day at the plate, but my job is to pitch,"
Willis said. "I love to hit. I try to handle the bat well. I feel
it'll keep me in the game longer."

The NL Rookie of the Year gave up four hits, struck out three
and walked none. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his three
starts, spanning 19 1-3 innings.

Willis finished 0-for-3 at the plate after going 3-for-3 in each
of his first two starts, including a home run last week.

"You guys wanted me to hit him fifth or sixth. I don't hear you
saying that now," Marlins manager Jack McKeon joked. "Even the
best hitters take a collar once in a while."

Chad Fox pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings, and Armando Benitez
worked a perfect ninth for his seventh save in as many chances.

Benitez had three saves in Florida's three-game sweep over the
Phillies on the first weekend of the season.

The World Series champion Marlins have won 16 of their last 18
games against the Phillies, who blew a half-game lead over Florida
in the NL wild-card race with eight games remaining last season.

"We just haven't hit against their pitching," Phillies manager
Larry Bowa said.

Vicente Padilla (0-2) gave up three runs -- two earned -- and five
hits in 6 1-3 innings for the Phillies.

Mike Lowell's RBI single in the first inning gave Florida a 1-0
lead. An RBI single by Juan Pierre made it 2-0 in the second.

A throwing error by third baseman David Bell allowed Mike
Redmond to reach second base to start the second, and he scored on
Pierre's two-out liner to center.

Willis came up with one out and a runner on third in the second
inning, but struck out swinging.

Jim Thome and Pat Burrell hit consecutive singles in the fourth.
After Jason Michaels flied out, Bell hit a sinking liner to right
field that Miguel Cabrera couldn't handle, letting the ball bounce
off his knee for an error as Thome scored to cut it to 2-1.

Willis worked out of a jam in the fifth inning, getting Mike
Lieberthal to pop out and retiring Thome on a fly ball with runners
on first and third.

"He was very effective," McKeon said. "When he stays ahead of
hitters, he has a lot of success. He's done a remarkable job."

The teams came in ranked first and second in the majors in
fielding, but each committed three errors. The Phillies had just
one in 11 previous games, and the Marlins had two in 12 games.

"I don't know what it is," Lieberthal said. "They play well
and we don't."

Game notes
Saint Joseph's men's basketball team was honored before the
game. Coach Phil Martelli, the AP's coach of the year, threw out
the ceremonial first pitch. The Hawks almost had a perfect season,
going 27-0 before losing. ... Willis' streak of seven straight hits
in the regular season was one shy of the club record held by Gary
Sheffield and Preston Wilson. Livan Hernandez was the last pitcher
to get hits in eight consecutive at-bats, doing it for San
Francisco in 2001. ... Burrell made a running catch on a foul ball
hit down the left-field line by Pierre and threw out Redmond at the
plate with a one-hop strike to end the seventh inning.