"He's a great competitor," Martinez said. "When he's on, like he was tonight, he'll put up that type of game against you."
Martinez then went one step further in his praise and said he had hoped that Willis would be on his side of the field by this point in the season.
Willis had been the subject of many Mets trade rumors before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but the Marlins remained steadfast in keeping him off the block.
"I would've liked to have him doing that job for us," Martinez said. "That'd be a dream come true."
Willis was on the other side, though, as the Mets' offense, aside from an RBI groundout by Jose Reyes that drove in pinch-hitter Julio Franco, was unable to produce any timely hits and fell victim to a strong defensive effort by the Marlins.
Martinez's only mistake -- in his second start since coming off the DL on July 28 with right hip inflammation -- was a solo home run he gave up to Mike Jacobs in the sixth inning that finally put a run on the board.
"He just made the one bad pitch," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He threw the ball great, so it was nice to see him get back in the rhythm. That's a good sign, very positive sign, to see him throw the ball like that."
Martinez, who struck out eight Marlins batters over the first four innings, said he felt very comfortable on the mound.
"I felt pretty good, just trying to get back on track," Martinez said. "Everything seems to be working. I'm very satisfied with where I'm at right now."
On the topic of the ball he threw to Jacobs that went over the right-field wall, Martinez got a bit philosophic.
"I guess God made life simple and easy for us, and we complicate it by making mistakes," Martinez said.
Jacobs' blast likely wouldn't have proved so costly if the Mets had been able to capitalize on some key situations with runners in scoring position. On three occasions, the Mets had two runners on and one out. In each case, the Marlins turned double plays to end the inning.
The most costly missed opportunity likely came in the eighth inning. Carlos Beltran walked to open the inning and then Willis struck out Carlos Delgado for the first out. David Wright, who struggled throughout the series with a 2-for-13 mark, then hit a grounder up the middle that deflected off Willis' glove right to shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who stepped on second and then threw to first to end the threat.
"They played great defense and Dontrelle threw the ball well," Paul Lo Duca said. "He kept us off-balance and he got a couple of double plays when he needed them."
The Mets got on the board in the seventh inning. Franco, pinch-hitting for Martinez, lined a single to right field and advanced to third as the ball rolled past Jeremy Hermida. Reyes then grounded out to second baseman Dan Uggla, allowing Franco to score.
Following a 1-2-3 inning from Roberto Hernandez in the seventh, Heilman gave up a single to Miguel Olivo to open the eighth. Olivo advanced to second on pinch-hitter Alfredo Amezaga's sacrifice bunt. Heilman then walked two batters around an Uggla strikeout to load the bases with two outs.
Cabrera, who struck out for the final out in the Mets' one-run win Wednesday, then slapped a line drive down the left-field line that drove in three runs and put the Marlins up for good.
"I'll just try to put it out of my mind and move on," Heilman said. "It's certainly a tough one to take."