Ben Sheets couldn’t have asked for a better performance in his first start since coming off the disabled list.
Sheets (11-4, 3.30 ERA) allowed one run and six hits in six innings of a 6-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday in his first start since July 14. The right-hander had been out for 1 1/2 months with a sprained finger in his pitching hand and then was slowed by a blister, but appears healthy and ready to help the second-place Brewers continue their pursuit of the NL Central-leading Cubs.
“It’s kind of an empty feeling. It’s something that you wait seven years to be a part of and to not be a part of that August was tough,” said Sheets of the team’s pennant race. “There is a month left and I can do something about that month. I’ve got six starts, and that’s what I’m going to try to make count.”
Milwaukee (69-67) beat Pittsburgh 7-4 on Sunday at home to sweep the Pirates and remain 1 1/2 games behind Chicago. Having Sheets back in the rotation should help the Brewers, who are 9-3 against Houston this season and 5-1 versus the Astros at Miller Park.
Sheets threw 86 pitches Wednesday and could be extended past that number Monday.
“We’ll see. Hopefully it carries over and has a good effect on us,” said Sheets, who is 10-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 22 starts against Houston.
He is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the Astros this season. Sheets allowed one run in six innings of a 6-1 home victory over Houston on June 25.
Four of Fielder’s 11 hits against the Astros have been homers, but he is 1-for-19 lifetime against Oswalt.
Oswalt (14-6, 3.21) will try for his seventh straight victory after he allowed four hits in seven stellar innings of a 7-0 win over St. Louis on Wednesday. He improved to 6-0 with a 1.01 ERA in seven starts since losing 9-3 to the Cubs on July 14.
In his last outing, Oswalt didn’t seem to show any effects of a strained oblique muscle that forced him to miss his previous start.
“I was a little worried going into the game,” Oswalt said. “I took it easy the first few innings. After the fourth inning, I let it go.”
Oswalt is 11-8 with a 3.50 ERA in 22 starts against Milwaukee, but 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in two April starts versus the Brewers this season.
Houston (61-76) blew a four-run lead and lost 6-5 to the Cubs on Sunday to drop the final two games of the series after winning three straight.
Lance Berkman hit a two-run homer in the first inning for the Astros, who are an NL-worst 25-43 on the road.
Berkman went 1-for-3 Sunday after going 0-for-4 in Saturday’s 4-3 loss, but is still batting .444 (12-for-27) with three homers and seven RBIs in his last seven games. He is a career .315 (17-for-54) hitter with four homers and 14 RBIs against Sheets.