MIAMI (AP) – Dontrelle Willis threw seven shutout innings for his first win in four starts, outdueling Kip Wells and lifting the Florida Marlins to a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night.

Florida scored twice in the seventh, on Juan Encarnacion’s RBI double and Mike Lowell’s sacrifice fly, and that was enough for Willis (14-6). The All-Star allowed 23 earned runs in his last 13 innings coming in, but held the Pirates to three hits and struck out seven.

Wells (6-11) was just as stingy until the seventh, when he allowed a leadoff single to Jeff Conine – just the third hit by the Marlins. Encarnacion’s double came on a crisp shot down the third base line three batters later. Lowell’s fly ball brought home Paul Lo Duca with the second run.

Miguel Cabrera’s sacrifice fly in the eighth off Pirates reliever Brian Meadows scored Juan Pierre with the third run, which was unearned. Pierre reached when first baseman Brad Eldred apparently pulled his foot off the bag when taking a throw from shortstop Jack Wilson.

Guillermo Mota pitched the eighth and Todd Jones worked the ninth for his 18th save in 20 chances, finishing off Florida’s ninth shutout of the season, which ties the Los Angeles Angels for second in the majors behind Atlanta’s 11.

Jason Bay had two hits for the Pirates, who dropped two of three in Florida and lost a series to the Marlins for the first time since September 2003.

Willis didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, when Bay connected on a one-out triple to center that bounced around in the triangle 434 feet from home plate. But Bay was stranded; Willis got Eldred to strike out looking, then needed three pitches to fan Ryan Doumit.

Bay hit a two-out double to left in the sixth, sending Matt Lawton to third. Yet the Marlins’ left-hander escaped again, this time getting Eldred to pop out.

Wells lost his seventh straight road start despite allowing four hits and two runs. In the seven road losses, the Pirates have scored just 10 runs – five in a June 30 defeat at Washington.

Notes: Wells’ ERA in his last seven road starts is 9.93, even after his solid outing Thursday. … 1B Carlos Delgado (sore arm) and SS Alex Gonzalez (sore elbow) were both out of Florida’s lineup. Before the game, Marlins manager Jack McKeon said he hoped to have both back on Friday. After the game, he pushed the probable return to Saturday. … Pirates CF Ryan Duffy misplayed a short fly ball hit by Cabrera in the fourth; he backtracked, then recovered to make an inning-ending sprawling catch. … Pierre struck out in the sixth inning, his first whiff in 32 at-bats. … The Pirates were shut out for the eighth time.

AP-ES-07-28-05 2213EDT


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