(Sports Network) - Dontrelle Willis was one of the most exciting, and at times dominant, pitchers during his first stint in the National League. While far from perfect in his Arizona debut last weekend, the hurler known as the "D- Train" did take a step in the right direction to capturing his former glory.
Willis will try to win his second straight start with the Diamondbacks this afternoon, when the team closes out a four-game set with the Atlanta Braves at Chase Field.
Willis burst onto the scene with the Florida Marlins back in 2003, going 14-6 with a 3.30 earned run average en route to capturing the NL Rookie of the Year award. During his five seasons with Florida, the left-hander captured 68 victories with a 3.78 ERA, was the league's win leader in 2005 and went to a pair of All-Star Games.
A trade to Detroit prior to the 2008 season then began Willis' downward spiral that included injuries and a battle with anxiety disorder. In 24 games with the Tigers in two-plus seasons, he went 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA.
The 28-year-old equaled his 2010 win total with Detroit in his first start with Arizona on Saturday, when he held Colorado scoreless over six innings. Willis worked around five hits and four walks while striking out three over a 106-pitch outing. He also singled and scored a run while working in-and-out of trouble on the mound.
"That's all part of his effectiveness -- he's effectively wild as they would say and isn't going to give in," Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch told his club's website. "I didn't think [Colorado's] lefties looked entirely comfortable against him."
Willis was 1-2 with a 4.89 ERA with Detroit this season before being traded to Arizona and is 6-5 with a 4.92 ERA in 18 career starts against the Braves.
The 6-foot-4 hurler isn't the only pitcher looking to continue a turnaround, as Atlanta's Tommy Hanson seeks a fourth straight victory tonight.
The 23-year-old hasn't lost since a May 15 start versus the Diamondbacks in which he gave up five runs over seven innings, though he did strikeout a season-high 10. Hanson wasn't much better five days later, when he was tagged for eight runs over just 1 2/3 innings of a no-decision versus the Reds.
He has been excellent since, allowing only five runs over his last 18 2/3 innings. The right-hander extended his personal win streak on Saturday, holding the Dodgers to a pair of runs over six innings of work to improve to 6-3 with a 3.71 ERA on the season.
Hanson has been excellent this season on the road, where he is 4-1 with a 2.19 ERA in six starts, and is 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA in two career starts versus Arizona.
Hanson will try to prevent the Diamondbacks from picking up a series victory today. After the two clubs split the first two meetings of this set, Arizona claimed a 2-1 triumph last night on Gerardo Parra's two-run inside-the-park homer that came as a result of Atlanta outfielders Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward colliding.
After Braves reliever Peter Moylan hit Mark Reynolds to begin the eighth inning, Parra followed a sac bunt with his drive to right-center. The ball hit the heel of McLouth's glove just as Heyward slid in and upended the center fielder, causing the ball to skip away from the laid-out outfielders and towards the wall. Parra never stopped running and slid in behind Reynolds for the go-ahead run.
"I wasn't sure how well Parra hit it ... but it was perfect placement in the sense it was tough for either of them to catch it," Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch said.
Though McLouth stayed down for a bit after the impact, he did eventually leave the field under his own power, exiting the contest with a headache.
The homer came after Heyward had scored on Brian McCann's one-out liner in the top of the eighth to break a scoreless game. However, Atlanta lost for the fourth time in six games since a nine-game win streak and saw its edge over Philadelphia for first place in the NL East dip to 1 1/2 games.
Arizona, meanwhile, has won four of six since a 10-game losing streak, but has still lost five of its last eight versus the Braves.