MILWAUKEE (AP)—All Ben Sheets needed to revert to his first-half form was a little breathing room.
Sheets threw a four-hitter for his first win since the All-Star break, Bill Hall drove in four runs and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 Thursday to salvage a split of their four-game series.
Hall’s three-run homer in the second gave Sheets a 5-0 cushion.
“When you get that lead you can relax a little bit,” Sheets said. “Everybody can relax, the hitters, the pitcher, the fielders, everything. That was a big momentum shift for us.”
Sheets (10-10), the first Brewers starter to earn a win since Victor Santos on Aug. 17, snapped a personal five-game losing streak. He last won on July 10 against Cincinnati, a span of 10 starts.
“That’s Ben. Get him a lead and it’s over with,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He was pretty dominant. I thought he had his fastball early. His curveball came on later.”
Sheets was so efficient—he threw 103 pitches, 72 for strikes—that nobody ever even warmed up in the Brewers’ bullpen.
“I’ve never seen a game where a reliever didn’t get up,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. “And we didn’t make one phone call down there today. Not one time did we get a reliever up. And you never see that. I mean, it’s taken me 14 years (as a coach or manager) to see it. So that shows you the type of game that he pitched.”
Keith Ginter also homered for the Brewers, who had lost eight consecutive series and 12 of 13.
Hall snapped an 0-for-15 skid in the second with a three-run homer off lefty Dave Williams (0-1), who was making his first start since May 27, 2002. Hall added a run-scoring single off Nelson Figueroa in the sixth.
With a runner at second, Williams intentionally walked Brady Clark and Hall sent a 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall for his ninth homer and a 5-0 lead. It was Milwaukee’s first home run in 175 at-bats.
“I made a bad pitch to Hall and it cost me three runs,” Williams said. “I put us in a hole at the beginning and we weren’t able to get out of it.”
Geoff Jenkins’ two-out RBI triple past a diving Rob Mackowiak in right field gave the Brewers a 1-0 lead in the first. Jenkins scored on Ginter’s dribbler that eluded Williams and first baseman Daryle Ward.
Williams, who came off the 15-day disabled list (ribs) Tuesday, gave up five runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings. He has lost his last five decisions as a starter since winning 3-2 at Miller Park on April 17, 2002. He spent last season at Triple-A Nashville after beginning the year on the 60-day DL while recovering from left shoulder surgery in July 2002.
“He was rusty,” McClendon said. “He threw some good pitches here and there.”
Ty Wigginton’s 14th homer, a solo shot to center in the seventh, made it 6-1. Ginter led off the bottom half with his 12th homer.
Brewers shortstop Craig Counsell was hitless in four at-bats, extending his skid to 0-for-29.
Jenkins’ triple was his career-high fifth. He had four in 2000. … The Brewers have put together consecutive wins just once in their last 50 games, on Aug. 8 against Florida and Aug. 10 against Atlanta after a day off. … Clark, the Brewers’ leadoff hitter with Scott Podsednik getting the day off, reached on a hit-by-pitch, an intentional walk and catcher’s interference in his first three trips to the plate. He ended the game by chasing down Mackowiak’s fly to right-center, then doubling Ward off first base. … The seven runs were the Brewers’ most since an 8-7 win over Pittsburgh on Aug. 1. … Sheets’ 213 strikeouts are second to Teddy Higuera’s franchise record of 240 set in 1987. Sheets broke the Milwaukee record for a right-hander of 211 whiffs set by the Braves’ Tony Cloninger in 1965.