PITTSBURGH (AP)—Dave Williams showed little emotion after winning for the first time in nearly three seasons. To his manager, that illustrates how the left-hander made it back to the majors after a bad injury and a long recovery.
Williams hadn’t won in five decisions as a starter since beating the Brewers 3-2 in Milwaukee on April 17, 2002, two months before he needed a shoulder operation. He resumed pitching for Triple-A Nashville in June 2003 and remained with the Sounds until being called up twice this season.
“I never doubted myself, but after the surgery I felt like I was put up against the ropes,” Williams said. “They want to see from you what they saw before and I understand that because it’s a business.”
Williams isn’t overpowering—he rarely throws about 91 mph—and he needed considerable time after the operation to regain his sharpness and ability to locate pitches. It took patience and diligence, though Williams was always certain he would do it.
“He’s a strike thrower and he competes,” said manager Lloyd McClendon, who pulled Williams only because he reached his 85-pitch limit. “He needs to be able to hit the strike zone consistently. He’s not a power guy, he’s a finesse guy … But I think there’s more there. I think he can be even sharper.”
The Pirates didn’t give up on the 25-year-old Williams partly because he’s excellent against left-handed hitters, limiting them to an .083 average before going on the disabled list in 2002.
With the help of Williams’ sharp start, the Pirates ended a five-game losing streak with only their sixth victory in 21 games. The Brewers lost their ninth in 10 road games, and are 1-5 in Pittsburgh this season.
Williams (1-1), making only his second start since May 27, 2002, pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam in the first, then allowed only one more hit—Craig Counsell’s single in the fifth. He was lifted after walking Keith Ginter with one out in the seventh, but Salomon Torres retired the next five batters.
Jose Mesa pitched the ninth for his 37th save, wrapping up the three-hitter and the Pirates’ sixth shutout.
Williams won his rematch with Sheets (10-11), who threw a four-hitter to beat him 7-1 on Thursday in Milwaukee. Sheets was lifted Tuesday after giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings and is 1-6 in 11 starts since being 9-5 with a 2.26 ERA at the All-Star break.
“I threw the ball well and I feel like I’ve been doing that pretty much the whole year,” Sheets said. “You control what you control. Two runs ain’t bad. You do that all season and you’ll probably be the best pitcher in the league.”
Sheets didn’t get any run support, a common theme during his second-half slump. The Brewers have been shut out in three of those 11 post-All-Star starts, averaging just over three runs per game.
“It does (bother him), but what can you do?” Sheets said. “It is what it is. It’s not going to change; I can’t change the games that have already been played. I can’t go back and give myself runs.”
Sheets walked four and struck out four in losing to Pittsburgh for the third time in four decisions.
Bay, acquired from San Diego last year in the Brian Giles trade, is mounting a strong case for the NL rookie of the year award with 22 homers and 67 RBIs. He needs one homer to tie the club rookie record of 23 set by Johnny Rizzo in 1938 and tied by Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in 1946.
Bay leads major league rookies in homers and RBIs despite missing the first five weeks of the season following offseason shoulder surgery.
Sheets is 5-9 against the NL Central. … Williams is 6-13 in 37 career appearances, including 29 starts. … Mesa had been scored upon in six of his previous 11 outings. … The Pirates are 2-5 in September. … Pittsburgh starting pitchers had been 0-4 with a 9.20 ERA since Josh Fogg’s 6 2-3 scoreless innings against Milwaukee on Aug. 30. … Milwaukee had won four of five.