Sabathia threw his fifth complete game in nine starts with Milwaukee (72-54) in Monday’s series-opening 9-3 win. The Brewers, who acquired Sabathia from Cleveland on July 7, moved within five games of the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central lead.
The Brewers are 8-1 in Sabathia’s starts, but only 12-14 in their other games since the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner made his Milwaukee debut.
The Brewers were hoping Sabathia and Sheets (11-6, 3.00 ERA) would carry the club to their first playoff berth since 1982, but Sheets has underachieved after starting the All-Star Game for the NL, going 1-4 with a 3.60 ERA in seven starts since Sabathia joined the rotation.
The right-hander gave up three runs and five hits with four strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss at San Diego on Thursday.
As he attempts again to match his career high in wins, Sheets will try his luck against one of his favorite opponents.
Sheets is 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in his three starts against the Astros this season, and 12-8 with a 3.72 ERA lifetime, his most victories against any opponent.
The Brewers, though, may be without Ryan Braun on Tuesday after the All-Star left fielder left Monday’s win with tightness in his lower back - the same injury that kept him out of six games last week.
Milwaukee Manager Ned Yost does not want to take any changes with Braun, who is batting .300 with 31 homers and 86 RBIs.
“It was stiff and tight, and it was getting tight after that last swing,” Yost said. “I’ll see how he feels (Tuesday), but this is something I am not really interested in playing around with. I am not going to go out here and go through this every night.”
Houston (63-62) saw its postseason hopes grow dimmer Monday, losing for the third time in four games and dropping 8 1/2 games behind the wild card-leading Brewers.
Astros third baseman Ty Wigginton extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games with a homer in the defeat. Wigginton is batting .491 (27-for-55) with seven home runs and 17 RBIs during his run, and is 12-for-28 (.429) with two homers and two doubles lifetime against Sheets.
The Astros counter with Brian Moehler (8-4, 3.97), who gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings Thursday, when he didn’t earn a decision in a 7-4 win over San Francisco on Thursday. The right-hander had posted a 1.31 ERA in winning his previous three starts.
Moehler hasn’t lost since July 4 at Atlanta, but he also hasn’t defeated Milwaukee since Aug. 25, 2006. He’s 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA in two starts against the Brewers this season, and is 3-8 with a 4.95 ERA in 19 games - 10 starts - lifetime versus them, his most losses against any opponent.