Plagued by a sore elbow, the All-Star is scheduled to start Saturday afternoon for the wild-card leading Brewers, who try for a sixth consecutive victory as they continue their home series with the playoff-bound Chicago Cubs.
Milwaukee (89-71) beat Chicago 5-1 on Friday to take a one-game lead with two remaining in the NL wild-card race over the New York Mets, who lost to Florida earlier in the evening. The Brewers are 5-0 since dropping 15 of 19 to fall out of the wild-card lead that reached 5 1/2 games at one point.
If the struggling Mets lose to the Marlins in a game slated to start approximately three hours prior to this contest, a Brewers’ victory over the NL Central champion Cubs (96-63) would give Milwaukee the wild card and secure its first playoff appearance since reaching the World Series in 1982.
“It’s a good feeling when you have destiny in your hands,” said Brewers interim manager Dale Sveum, who is 6-4 since replacing the fired Ned Yost. “We don’t have to chase anybody, we’re not tied, we’re not anything. It’s in our hands now.”
Milwaukee turns to Sheets (13-8, 2.98 ERA), who hasn’t pitched since leaving after two innings due to elbow soreness in a 6-2 victory over Chicago on Sept. 17.
The All-Star Game starter threw 20 pitches in the bullpen Thursday and said he felt ready to go.
“For him to look you straight in the face and say, ‘I feel fine,’ that’s good enough for me,” Sveum said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball when he’s healthy.”
After getting off to a strong start, the right-hander is 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA in his last 10 starts and is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in four outings versus Chicago in 2008.
“I’m going to try to get outs,” said Sheets, who is 10-8 with a 3.98 ERA in 26 career starts against the Cubs. “I’m going to try and go out there to give us good quality innings as long as I can.”
Rickie Weeks’ three-run homer in the seventh inning broke open a tight game Friday as Milwaukee improved to 1-4 against the Cubs at Miller Park.
Prince Fielder went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 16 games where he is batting .403 (25-for-62) with six homers and 18 RBIs during that span. He is hitting .380 (19-for-50) with 13 RBIs in 14 games against Chicago this season and 5-for-12 lifetime versus the Cubs’ Saturday starter Ted Lilly.
Lilly (16-9, 4.17), Chicago’s starter if there is a Game 4 in the NL division series, takes the ball trying for a fourth consecutive victory. He allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings of the Cubs’ 5-4 division-clinching victory over St. Louis last Saturday.
The left-hander, who has recorded a career high for wins and is 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA in his last three outings, is 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA in five career starts versus the Brewers and 0-1 in two versus them this season.
Jim Edmonds homered and Mike Fontenot added three hits Friday for Chicago, which is 3-3 since clinching the division and opens postseason play Wednesday at Wrigley Field where it has home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
Edmonds, who reached the 20-home run mark for the 11th time in his career and first since 2005, is 7-for-15 with four homers and eight RBIs in four games against Milwaukee this season.