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Willis belts two homers, picks up win as Marlins top Mets

Sep 20, 2006 - 3:32 PM FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) Dontrelle Willis almost singlehandedly gave the postseason hopes of the Florida Marlins a much-needed boost.

Willis tossed 8 1/3 effective innings and became the first pitcher in Marlins history to homer twice in a game as Florida snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory over the New York Mets.

The Marlins, winning for just the second time in eight games, were in danger of falling out of serious contention in the National League wild card race. Florida moved within 4 1/2 games of the pace-setting Los Angeles Dodgers, who host Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Willis (12-11) won for 11th time in 13 career decisions against the Mets, allowing three runs and seven hits.

"When we needed a win, he's been there for us," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "He did everything for us tonight."

The lefthander departed after walking two batters in the ninth and Joe Borowski recorded the final two outs for his 35th save, getting Jose Reyes on a flyout with the bases loaded to end it.

"You don't want to ruin a night like that for him," Borowski said of Willis. "I wish I could have a night like that."

The 24-year-old Willis also did it with his bat, homering off starter Oliver Perez to lead off the fifth and adding another solo blast off Roberto Hernandez in the eighth. He added an RBI single in the sixth. Willis' other homer this season was a grand slam against the Mets' Jose Lima on July 7.

"I was just being competitive, swinging the bat and having some fun," Willis said. "I just went up there and swung. They don't want to walk the pitcher."

It was the first two-homer game by a pitcher since Philadelphia's Randy Wolf belted a pair against Colorado on August 11, 2004.

Willis, who finished with three RBI, has six career homers.

"He's a heck of an athlete," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "Make a mistake against him and he will kill you."

Willis' 11 wins against New York during his four years in the majors are four more than any other pitcher in that span. Livan Hernandez is next with seven.

"It's not an easy place to win," Willis said of Shea Stadium. "I've just been able to make some big pitches."

The Marlins added another run in the eighth, when Hanley Ramirez scored from second base on a wild pitch by Roberto Hernandez that catcher Paul Lo Duca could not locate behind the plate.

In desperate need of a victory, Willis continued his domination against the Mets, even though New York's lineup was notably upgraded from a night earlier.

Randolph did not start a regular position player on Tuesday, one day after his team clinched the NL East Division title. But he returned a chunk of everyday players to the lineup on Wednesday, including Lo Duca, shortstop Reyes, first baseman Carlos Delgado and third baseman David Wright.

Perez (3-12) was charged with three runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings for New York.

"I was a little bit wild," Perez said. "I just have to keep working."

The Marlins scored three times in the sixth to take a 4-1 lead. Matt Treanor doubled off the wall to score former Met Mike Jacobs, who had walked. Left fielder Lastings Milledge might have had a play on the ball, but he jumped too early and it sailed over his head.

Chad Bradford relieved Perez and allowed a single by Alfredo Amezaga before Willis drove in a run with a base hit to right field.

"You seldom will see a pitcher get three different hits that drive in runs," Girardi said.

Ramirez made it 4-1 with an RBI groundout.

The Mets cut the lead to 4-3 with two runs in their half of the sixth. Left fielder Josh Willingham misplayed a line drive by Lo Duca into an RBI double, and Jose Valentin lifted a sacrifice fly later in the frame.

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