MILWAUKEE (AP)—Kris Benson is finally pitching up to his expectations.
Benson (3-1) pitched 7 2-3 innings for the first time since May 27 in a 9-4 win over the Chicago Cubs. His 2003 season was cut short on July 18 by right shoulder tendinitis.
“I came into the season knowing that I was 100 percent healthy and that’s all it really takes for me to go out there and perform well,” he said after throwing 99 pitches, 62 for strikes.
The 29-year-old right-hander has made five starts this season, each lasting at least five innings. He went seven innings in a victory April 18 against the New York Mets.
“I knew that once I got back in shape and my arm was fine, then I was going to go out there and do what I was always capable of doing,” he said.
Milwaukee went up 1-0 in the third when Craig Counsell tripled into the right-field corner and scored on Junior Spivey’s broken-bat groundout. Benson then retired 10 in a row before Lyle Overbay led off the seventh with a double.
Benson, who struck out a season-high seven and walked two, retired the side in order in fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“I have total confidence as far as going out there, and going right after guys,” Benson said. “When I don’t have my shoulder hurting and my elbow hurting, I know I can go out there and perform at the major league level.”
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, who pulled Benson from the game with runners at first and second and two outs in the eighth, was impressed.
“Benson was outstanding,” he said. “Certainly the type of outing we needed from him.”
The Brewers had a chance in the seventh, but the Pirate’s defense helped Benson out.
“It’s hard to score off anybody when they are throwing that good,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “You can’t pitch any better than Benson pitched tonight.”
Jose Mesa gave up his first run of the season in the ninth on Clark’s run-scoring groundout, after going 8 2-3 scoreless innings over 10 outings this season. He finished for his seventh save in as many chances.
The Pirates finally got to Ben Sheets (3-2) in the sixth.
Jack Wilson singled and went to third on Jason Kendall’s hit. Mondesi followed with his third double of the night to score Wilson. Kendall came home on Mackowiak’s groundout with Mondesi advancing on the play. Craig Wilson hit a sacrifice fly to put the Pirates up 3-1.
“That’s called good hitting,” Yost said. “That’s just good major league hitting. Besides that Ben was phenomenal.”
Sheets gave up three runs and seven hits in eight innings. He had seven strikeouts and no walks, extending his streak to 32 2-3 innings without walking a batter. During that time, he has struck out 31.
The Pirates made it 4-1 on Carlos Rivera’s RBI single in the ninth.
Sheets was looking to become the fourth Brewers pitcher to win four games in April. Chris Bosio accomplished the feat last (1989) followed by Teddy Higuera(1987) and Mike Caldwell (1979, 1984).
Brewers shortstop Counsell had 10 assists. Montreal’s Orlando Cabrera was the last shortstop to have 10 assists in a game. He did it on September 14. … Mondesi’s three doubles were the first since Jack Wilson had three against Tampa Bay on June 13, 2003. … Mondesi doubled leading off the second, but was stranded as the Pirates fell to 3-for-29 with runners in scoring position over the last five games. … Spivey improved his major league-leading RBI total for second basemen to 16 with a run-scoring groundout in the third. … Brewers C Moeller, who hit for the cycle Tuesday and did not play Wednesday, went0-for-4.