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Cubs pin loss on Willis

Marlins ace suffers first April defeat

CHICAGO -- Dontrelle Willis's perfect April record was ruined by a rookie.

Willis lost for the first time in April, with Sean Marshall pitching seven scoreless innings on a cold night to lead the Chicago Cubs over the Florida Marlins, 3-1, last night at Wrigley Field.

Willis (1-1) allowed three runs, five hits and three walks in seven innings, striking out six. He had been 9-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 14 April starts.

Willis wasn't left pondering about his first career loss.

''I wasn't aware of that. I'm not too big of a stat guy," he said.

Willis also began the night 2-0 with a 1.01 ERA in four starts at Wrigley Field. He was selected by the Cubs in the eighth round of the 2000 amateur draft, then was traded to the Marlins in May 2002 as part of a deal that brought pitchers Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement to Chicago.

''Dontrelle is a winner. You watch Dontrelle pitch and you understand why he's successful," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. ''He does all the things that you have to do. He does everything right and everything he takes to be a winner."

Willis struck out former teammate Juan Pierre leading off the first inning. It was the first time he faced Pierre in his career. Pierre was 0 for 3 against Willis.

Marshall (2-0) allowed two hits, struck out seven and walked two in his fourth career start.

''You can tell the way Dontrelle was dealing he wasn't going to give up many runs, and Sean Marshall matched him and threw a great ballgame," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect ninth to complete the five-hitter. It was his sixth save this year and his 25th straight save conversion dating to July 24.

The gametime temperature was 39 degrees, and the wind was blowing in at 18 miles per hour, but an announced crowd of 38,680 still came to Wrigley Field.

''They hit some balls on the nose. The elements were with us tonight," Baker said. ''This is sort of strange. You think spring is here, then winter shows back up again, I guess that is Chicago; you've just got to deal with it," Baker said.

Marshall didn't allow a hit until Chris Aguila singled with one out in the fifth, then got Reggie Abercrombie to hit into an inning-ending double-play.

The 6-foot-7-inch lefthander, using a big curveball to fool the Marlins hitters, struck out the side in the sixth.

''My breaking ball was probably my top pitch tonight. It's been awhile since I have been able to control it and command it like that," he said.

Matt Murton's RBI single put the Cubs ahead in the fourth following a leadoff walk by Aramis Ramirez.

Murton added a run-scoring double in the seventh and scored on a squeeze bunt by Jerry Hairston Jr., sliding home ahead of Willis's throw.

Dan Uggla hit an RBI single off Bobby Howry in the eighth.

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