Ben Sheets has been struggling through his worst slump of the season. The Milwaukee lineup hasn’t done much to help.
Sheets looks to end a three-start losing streak as the Brewers conclude a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park.
Sheets allowed four runs and seven hits over seven innings in Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to Greg Maddux and the Chicago Cubs, remaining winless since the All-Star break. Sheets has allowed 10 runs in 19 2-3 innings during his personal skid, but has received just one run of support from his offense.
“Tonight, we played good defense, but if you don’t pitch and don’t hit, you can’t win ballgames,” Sheets said after his latest loss.
Facing a team other than Chicago might give Sheets a boost. The Cubs pounded him for four runs in the first three innings Tuesday after beating him 5-0 just 10 days earlier.
“The balls they hit didn’t make me think, because those were bad pitches,” said Sheets, who considered the possibility that he was tipping pitches. “But the ones that they took made me wonder a little bit. But I’m gonna chalk it up to a pretty good adjustment by them.”
Sheets had won three straight starts before his slide and has not allowed more than four runs in any of his 21 starts this season. However, the Brewers have scored just 10 runs in his eight losses.
“He just mixed his location a little bit and tried to set some of his pitches up,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said of Sheets, who retired 14 of 15 batters at one point Tuesday.
“For a pitcher like Ben to come in and alter his game plan in the middle of a game shows me something. I was proud of that. It’s a positive step.”
The Pirates beat the Brewers 4-1 on Saturday, snapping a three-game losing streak. Ryan Vogelsong made his first start since June 23 in place of Kris Benson, who was traded to the New York Mets on Friday for infielders Ty Wigginton and Jose Bautista and pitcher Matt Peterson.
Vogelsong allowed just one run and three hits in five innings.
Jack Wilson went 3-for-5 with a single, double and triple for Pittsburgh, which can climb out of the NL Central cellar with a win Sunday.
Geoff Jenkins homered for the Brewers, who have lost 10 of 13. Milwaukee has scored just 13 runs in its last 10 losses and has been shut out three times during that span.
STANDINGS (through July 30): Pirates - 6th place, 17 1/2 GB, NL Central. Brewers - tied for 4th place, 16 GB, NL Central.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Kip Wells (4-6, 4.37 ERA). Wells allowed three runs and nine hits over six innings of the Pirates’ 8-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, but did not receive a decision for the third straight start. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.60 ERA in five starts this month. He is 5-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 12 career starts against the Brewers.
BREWERS PROBABLE STARTER: Sheets (9-8, 2.58 ERA). Sheets is 3-6 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 career starts against the Pirates.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Pirates - Jack Wilson, .319 avg.; Craig Wilson, 18 HRs, 58 RBIs and 63 runs; Tike Redman, 11 SBs. Brewers - Lyle Overbay, .326 avg. and 67 RBIs; Jenkins, 15 HRs; Scott Podsednik, 61 runs and 41 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Pirates, 9-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Pirates - INF Wigginton started at third base Saturday and went 0-for-4. INF Bautista pinch hit and struck out. … Before SS Jack Wilson’s first inning double Saturday, Pittsburgh had gone more than 26 innings without an extra-base hit. … Pittsburgh released INF Chris Stynes before Saturday’s game and recalled RHP Mark Corey from Triple-A Nashville. Brewers - 1B Overbay snapped an 0-for-16 streak Saturday with a second-inning single. … The Brewers are just 48-88 in July since 2000. … RHP Sheets is 7-5 with a 2.04 ERA in 13 starts at home this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pirates - 23-27 on the road; Brewers - 27-24 at home.
INJURIES: Pirates - C Humberto Cota (oblique), 15-day DL; INF Freddy Sanchez (ankle), 15-day DL; 1B-RF Daryle Ward (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF J.J. Davis (hip), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Boehringer (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Mike Johnston (elbow), 15-day DL. Brewers - 2B Junior Spivey (shoulder), 15-day DL.