Ben Sheets sounded pleased after his first start in nearly eight months. He should be even happier if he gets a win after facing the highest-scoring team in the majors.
Trying to reclaim his status as staff ace, Sheets continues working his way back from injury for the Brewers on Friday as he takes on the red-hot lineup of the Cincinnati Reds.
A strained back muscle suffered early in spring training caused Sheets (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to open the season on the disabled list, where he spent the final month of last season due to a strained shoulder.
He finally returned to the mound for Milwaukee on Sunday, allowing four runs and six hits in five innings of a 9-3 loss to the New York Mets.
Sheets, though, did not walk a batter and struck out six, throwing 60 of his 96 pitches for strikes against what had been one of baseball’s hottest lineups.
“I felt good, really good,” he said of his first start since Aug. 26. “I’m not happy we lost but for myself, I’m happy to be back out there. I’ll get better, I think.”
The team’s opening day starter from 2002-05, Sheets is hoping to regain the form he showed in 2004 when he had a 2.70 ERA and 264 strikeouts in 237 innings.
He has done well against Cincinnati, going 5-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts, and has held the Reds scoreless in his last 17 innings against them.
Sheets would be hard pressed to keep that streak going, facing a Cincinnati team which has scored 43 runs in its last five games. The Reds top the major leagues with 107 runs scored and 32 home runs.
It didn’t take long for Milwaukee to find out just how hot Cincinnati’s lineup has been. The opener of this four-game series saw the Reds rally from an early four-run deficit by scoring 10 straight runs en route to a 12-6 victory Thursday.
Brandon Phillips hit his first career grand slam and added a two-run shot for his first two-homer game in the majors.
Phillips is 9-for-18 with 13 RBIs over the last four games. He’s batting .367 for Cincinnati since being acquired on April 7 from Cleveland, where he never lived up to expectations and spent most of the previous two seasons in the minors.
“It was great to see a young guy like Brandon Phillips have the kind of night that he did,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “He’s a very talented baseball player. He’s got all the abilities. We’ll just have to see if, at the major league level, he can be consistent.”
While the Reds have won three of four, the Brewers have lost four of five despite their solid production at the plate. Milwaukee has totaled 34 runs and 49 hits, including 10 doubles and nine homers, over the last four games.
Prince Fielder has gone 8-for-15 with a homer, six RBIs and five runs in that stretch. He has seven mulithit efforts in his last 12 games, and leads Milwaukee with a .383 average.
Fielder now goes against Bronson Arroyo, who hasn’t faced the Brewers since 2002. He’s 2-1 with a 3.79 ERA in six career appearances against them.
Arroyo (2-0, 3.86) won his first two starts—both against the Chicago Cubs — and homered in both outings, but his most recent start did not go nearly as well. Besides going hitless in two at-bats, Arroyo allowed five runs and six hits, including two homers, in five innings of an 8-7 loss at St. Louis on Sunday.
He walked three batters in that game after walking none through his first 13 2-3 innings of the year.