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Jack McKeon on Dontrelle Willis; Fish fall to 14 games below .500

I wasn't able to fit Jack McKeon's comments about Dontrelle Willis in Tuesday's story, so here's the transcript of McKeon's quotes from earlier today...

(Aside from the numnbers, what made Dontrelle the special player that he was?)

I think, no question, he’s one of the most colorful guys we ever had. But the thing I really enjoyed about Dontrelle, and I wish some of our guys would, is the energy he had, and that just poured over to the other plays. This guy is out there, ‘Give me the ball, I want the ball,’ instead of going to sleep on you. Some guys take five innings to deliver a pitch. But the energy he brought was almost contagious to the other players. And it wasn’t clowning, it was serious love of the game. ‘I want to go out there and pitch, I love it.’

(And he would fill the stadium too...)

Because he was one of the most colorful guys we ever had in this franchise.

(What do you think allowed him to turn things around this year?)

Well, he had some tough times. I really haven’t had a chance to get with him about it. But it looks like he’s back on track again, and I’m so happy for him. He went through a little period of adversity and he was able to make adjustments, and that’s what I tried to tell our guys today: This is a game where you’ve got to continue to make adjustments.

(Dontrelle could hit too...)

Oh yeah, he could hit. I think I batted him sixth one time, if I’m not mistaken. He was aggressive and had a good idea of the strike zone. He delivered a lot of times. I know he hit a grand slam in Puerto Rico. He was always a threat to hit it out of the park. I pinch-hit over a few guys a few times over those years, and I saw that he’s been hitting the ball pretty hard for these guys. I’ve been following him.

(Dontrelle said you gave him tough love, some tongue lasings -- and more than one...)

I gave him tongue-lashings. But it’s for their good. I try to emphasis what it takes to be a star, an All-Star, a Hall of Famer. It requires a little pride and dedication. And you’ve got to want to be good. Today we see a lot of gives come to the big leagues and they’re here and they’re comfortable, and I told them today, it aint’ going to work. I told them today the record books are full of one- and two-year phenoms. But all I try to do is help them in their career. Yeah, I’ve got to chew somebody out once in a while. Poor [Josh] Beckett and [Brad] Penny -- if any two guys would not have liked me, it would have been them two. But then when it was all said and done, when they became pretty good pitchers and stuff, they all would pick the phone up and thank me. That was the good part about it. When they thank you for turning their career around or making [them] realize what it took to be a big winner. I hope they stay the same way. But heck, I could go days with Beckett, he wouldn’t talk to me for 3 or 4 days, and I wouldn’t take to him, because if he did talk to me, he was going to get some more, so I kind of stayed away from him. And then it all settled down, and we loved one another again. But they all know it’s not personal, it’s trying to get them to realize what it takes to become an All-Star, or a 20-game winner.

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The Marlins’ second-half-of-summer bummer continued on a downward spiral Tuesday night, hitting arguably a new low when closer Leo Nuñez blew his sixth save of the season, sending the Marlins an 8-6 loss and their 16th defeat in the last 18 games.

“Everybody is overwhelmed here with just the way it’s going,” Ricky Nolasco said. “Nobody is doubting Leo and his stuff and every time we give him the ball. It just didn’t work out today. It’s all coming at the worst possible times, and it’s tough as a team.”

Nuñez entered with a 6-4 lead in the ninth, but he promptly walked pinch-hitter Joey Votto, gave up a single to Brandon Phillips and allowed a 2-RBI double by Dave Sappelt to make it 6-6. That’s when Miami native and former University of Miami star Yonder Alonso delivered the biggest blow of the game, smoking a game-tying two-run double back up the middle.

Alonso, the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft, factored in half of the Reds’ runs. He launched a line-drive home run to put Cincinnati on the board in the second, then knocked in another to give Cincinnati a 2-0 lead in the third.

It looked like Tuesday would follow the same story as seemingly all of the Marlins’ games in August: The Fish fell behind early and couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities, stranding six runners in the first three innings. But it seemed like something clicked when Nolasco retired the next six hitters and the offense broke out for a three-run fifth.

Even that wasn’t enough for the Marlins to snap their five-game losing streak, as the Fish fell to 14 games below .500.

“It was a tough one,” McKeon said. “The guys played hard. They played like they hadn’t played in a while, battled back and got the lead. … No question this hurt.”

Nolasco became the Marlins’ all-time franchise leader in strikeouts in the second, whiffing Johnny Cueto for the 758th “K” of his career to break the record previously held by Dontrelle Willis. The “D-Train,” now with the Reds, was sitting in the opposing dugout when his record was broken, and he later tore down the new stadium countdown number in the fifth inning.

“[The record] won’t sink in now,” Nolasco said. “Everybody is frustrated, and those personal goals aren’t going to mean anything when the team is scuffling like this.”

Nolasco struck out seven more batters while allowing four runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. If not for the blown save by Nuñez, Nolasco would have moved within four games of Willis’ mark (68) for victories in franchise history.

The Marlins pushed across three runs in the fifth on Greg Dobbs’ sacrifice fly and a double high off the left-field wall by Gaby Sanchez. In the sixth, Emilio Bonifacio connected on his third home run of the season to extend the Marlins’ lead.

Florida added a would-be insurance run on Bonifacio’s sacrifice fly to center that scored Buck in the eighth, but everything imploded in the next half inning, when Nuñez threw 37 pitches to record two outs.

“It looked like we had it and it went away,” McKeon said.

The Marlins went down in order in the ninth.

-- Matt Forman

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