Dontrelle Willis' goal is to make it back to the major leagues, and a good way to do that would be to continue pitching the way he did Monday.
The Ducks fell to the visiting Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, 4-2, but Willis -- despite the sizzling heat -- allowed three earned runs, seven hits and three walks in a complete-game effort, overcoming a season-high five errors in the process.
"He was outstanding," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "He pitched nine [innings] and it was 100 degrees out there. He kept us in the game and that's all you can ask for."
Though Willis (5-4, 2.73 ERA) was effective from the start, hits at untimely moments cost him. He retired the first two batters in the fifth inning but allowed a run on Jeremy Owens' single, then gave up a two-out, two-run single by Wladimir Sutil in the seventh. In between, a two-out error allowed Sutil to score an unearned run in the sixth.
The Ducks were shut out until the eighth, when they made it 4-2 on two-out RBI singles by Bryant Nelson and Bill Hall off Blue Crabs starter and winner Ian Marshall (9-3). Joash Brodin and Dan Lyons led the Ducks with two hits each.
Willis, who pitched his third complete game of the season and threw 106 pitches, 66 for strikes, said he was encouraged by his start.
"I like my strength," he said. "I like where my lungs are at, my legs. Especially in a game like this where it's hot, that's where you need leg strength to get through the innings."
Willis, the National League Rookie of the Year in 2003 and a two-time All-Star who went 72-69 in nine major-league seasons, has shown progress in his quest to get back to the majors. After struggling at the beginning of the season, he has looked like the Willis of old in the past month. In his last six starts, he has gone 3-2 and allowed seven earned runs in 41 innings for a 1.54 ERA.
Willis said he's been contacted by "everybody" in the major leagues but doesn't put much stock into what any organization has said to him so far.
"Until I'm signed, it doesn't matter," he said. "They can tell me anything but I won't [put] any weight into it until I go somewhere."