Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets is off to an impressive start - and he may have figured out a way to be even more dangerous in his last outing.
Sheets will look to turn in another strong outing on Friday when the Brewers open a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Sheets (2-0, 1.17 ERA) did not allow a run in his first two starts of the season, and his third was strong as well. Squaring off against Johan Santana, he gave up two runs in the first inning before bouncing back to retire 18 straight batters and throw 7 2-3 innings in the 5-3 win over the New York Mets.
“I’ve had lousy first innings plenty of times and pitched a good game,” Sheets, who gave up three total runs, told the Brewers’ official team Web site. “I knew I could do it.”
Sheets, who was coming off a five-hit shutout of San Francisco six days earlier, mixed a changeup into his repertoire to help rebound from the rocky first inning.
“If you’ve got three pitches - a fastball, curve and change - it’s really tough on hitters,” manager Ned Yost said. “They don’t know what’s coming. Somebody as good as Benny, trying to develop a new pitch gives him another weapon.”
Sheets is 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 15 career starts against the Reds (7-9), but went just 1-1 with a gaudy 10.00 ERA in two starts against them last season. He lasted just three innings in his last start against Cincinnati, yielding five runs in a 6-5 home loss on Sept. 14.
However, he is 3-0 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts at Great American.
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (0-1, 5.17) is off to a rocky start this season, having failed to last past the sixth inning in any of his three starts. He gave up three runs in five innings of the Reds’ 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, but did not receive a decision.
The right-hander didn’t yield a home run after giving up four in his previous outing, a 5-3 loss to Philadelphia five days earlier.
“Nothing is clicking yet. You feel like you’re running uphill a bit,” Arroyo told the Reds’ official team Web site.
Arroyo is 6-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 12 career appearances—nine starts— against the Brewers (9-6). He won both of his starts against them last season, posting a 3.60 ERA.
The Reds snapped a five-game losing streak on Thursday, beating the Chicago Cubs 9-2 in the finale of a three-game series at Wrigley Field. Joey Votto doubled with the bases loaded, homered and matched a career high with five RBIs, while Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 596th career home run.
Manager Dusty Baker, meanwhile, beat the team he managed from 2003-06 after the Cubs won the first two games by a combined 21-8.
“We didn’t want to have back-to-back sweeps. Five in a row felt like it was a month,” Baker said.
The Brewers avoided a three-game sweep on Thursday, beating St. Louis 5-3 on Prince Fielder’s two-run homer in the 10th inning. The homer was the first of the season for Fielder, who led the NL with 50 last season after also starting with just one in his first 15 games.
“You’ve always got to promise yourself you’re going to be as positive as you can, no matter what,” Fielder said. “It was actually getting easier, to tell you the truth, the worse I was doing. I just kind of realized that whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.”
Fielder also tied the score with a RBI double that capped a three-run, eighth-inning rally. He has four homers and has hit .357 (25-for-70) in 20 career games at Great American.