Milwaukee starter Ben Sheets flirted with perfection his last time out.
Now, he’ll look to slow down St. Louis’ push for a third straight NL Central title when the Brewers and Cardinals continue their three-game series Tuesday at Miller Park.
Sheets (5-6, 4.08 ERA) retired the first 18 batters he faced before allowing one run in eight innings of Wednesday’s 2-1 win at Pittsburgh.
“Things were going good. I ain’t going to lie. It definitely crossed my mind,” Sheets said of his bid for a perfect game.
Sheets, who missed nearly three months earlier this season because of right shoulder tendinitis, had been 0-1 in his previous three starts despite a 2.61 ERA. He struck out 10 on Wednesday for the 13th time in his career.
“It’s a sign that the old Ben is here again and that’s what we need. Today he was great with all of his pitches. His fastball was up to 96 (mph) and he was kind of down with his fastball and he showed that he is getting better and stronger every day,” catcher Mike Rivera said.
Sheets is 4-12 with a 4.15 ERA in 19 career starts versus the Cardinals. He has lost his last four outings against them, including a 4-3 defeat on Aug. 5 in his only start against St. Louis this season.
The Brewers (68-82) beat the Cardinals 4-3 in Monday’s series opener. Geoff Jenkins homered in the second inning and Tony Graffanino singled in the winning run in the ninth for Milwaukee, which has won three of five.
The Cardinals (79-69) lost for just the second time in six games. Despite the defeat, their magic number for clinching the Central was reduced to seven when Cincinnati lost to Houston.
Albert Pujols went 3-for-5 with his 46th homer, matching the career high he set in 2004. Shortstop David Eckstein, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle on Sept. 15, pinch hit in the seventh in his first appearance since Aug. 18.
Jason Marquis (14-15, 5.82) will start Tuesday for St. Louis. The right-hander lost his third straight start on Wednesday, allowing four runs and five hits in just one inning of a 5-1 loss to Houston. Marquis, who was taken out of the game after allowing a leadoff hit in the second, threw 52 pitches in the shortest start of his career.
“Physically, obviously, I feel fine,” said Marquis, who was pitching on three days’ rest for the eighth time in his career. “Mechanically, I’ve got some problems. I’ve been battling mechanical problems all year.”
Marquis had lasted seven innings in each of his previous two starts, allowing just five total runs. However, he is 3-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break.
Only two pitchers since 1900 have finished a season with an ERA higher than Marquis’ and won 14 or more games—Wes Ferrell (15-10, 6.28) in 1938 for the Senators and Yankees, and Guy Bush (15-10, 6.20) in 1930 for the Cubs.
Marquis is 4-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 12 career appearances, including 10 starts, against the Brewers.