Fresh off his second All-Star appearance, Ben Sheets will try to continue his impressive pitching.
Greg Maddux will be looking to snap out of his recent struggles as he tries to move closer to his 300th career victory when the Chicago Cubs continue a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.
Sheets, looking to become the first Brewers pitcher to 10 victories this season, has not allowed a run in his last 16 innings, the longest shutout stretch of his career. His previous best was 14 1-3 innings from May 29-June 3, 2001.
He gave up just five hits and struck out eight over eight innings to win his third consecutive start in Milwaukee’s 5-0 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday.
“It’s been a whole lot of fun so far,” said Sheets, who leads the majors with a 2.26 ERA and ranks fourth with 133 strikeouts. “We’ve got a good team. … We’re still looking to improve because we’re not where we want to be right now.”
On July 5, the 25-year-old Sheets pitched seven shutout innings against the Cubs, allowing four hits while striking out 12 to help the Brewers to a 1-0 victory. He is now 7-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 11 career starts against Chicago.
Since earning his 295th career victory on June 16 against the Astros, Maddux has stumbled a bit, going 1-2 with a 6.95 ERA in his last four starts.
In his last outing, the 38-year-old right-hander gave up three homers for the third time this season—as the Cubs lost 6-1 to the Cardinals on July 9— to raise his season total to 20. Maddux, 9-3 in the second half of 2003, allowed just 24 home runs in 36 starts last year.
He is 7-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 11 career starts against the Brewers.
Milwaukee bounced back from a 4-1 loss in the opener to beat Chicago 3-2 on Friday, just its second victory in six games.
Bill Hall stole consecutive bases and scored the go-ahead run after Brooks Kieschnick delivered another clutch pinch-hitting performance. Kieschnick is 9-for-27 with six RBIs as a pinch-hitter when he’s not pitching.
“You’re never going to blow them out,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said of the Cubs. “You just have to grind it out, and we’ve got the right guys to do that.”
Cubs third basemen Aramis Ramirez, who leads the team with 56 RBIs and 60 runs, may return to the lineup after missing 10 games with a groin strain. The Cubs are 4-6 in that span, scoring an average of 2.5 runs per game.
An MRI on Cubs right-hander Mark Prior’s right elbow revealed no structural damage on Friday. Prior, forced to leave Thursday’s game in the second inning, might not have to miss his next scheduled start on Tuesday.