Astros 8, Brewers 5

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MILWAUKEE (AP)—Seven years after signing a professional contract, Fernando Nieve finally knows what it feels like to win on the major league level.

Nieve had his first win, hit and RBI as a big leaguer, and the Houston Astros roughed up Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets in an 8-5 victory on Tuesday night.

“I feel real excited. It was my best night,” Nieve said. “I’m starting to show what I can do. I worked in the minor leagues a lot and that helped me.”

Did he ever.

The 23-year-old Venezuelan signed with the Astros in May 1999, when he was 16, and made his major league debut earlier this season.

“I don’t think he was as sharp as he’s going to be, but for pitching against a team that hits the ball well, he battled through it,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “He did a good job of changing things.”

Nieve, who retired 14 in a row at one point, gave up four runs and six hits with seven strikeouts.

Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.

Sheets (1-3) gave up nine hits and seven runs in 2 1-3 innings in one of the worst outings of his career. His only shorter outing was one inning against Philadelphia in 2003, when Sheets was pulled as a precaution but made his next start.

“You ain’t going to have your ‘A’ stuff every time,” Sheets said. “I was worried about trying to get an out. I didn’t get many outs, but I was trying.”

The Astros scored in each of the first three innings, starting with Lance Berkman’s sacrifice fly to score Craig Biggio. It was Berkman’s 31st RBI, good for second best in baseball, one behind Albert Pujols of St. Louis.

But Houston did most of its damage in the second with five straight hits off Sheets.

Adam Everett doubled in two runs and Nieve’s hit scored Brad Ausmus to make it 4-0.

Willy Taveras capped the inning with a fielder’s choice that scored Everett.

After hard-hit singles near the mound in the third inning by Preston Wilson and Ausmus, the second driving in Mike Lamb to make it 6-2, Sheets was pulled for reliever Ben Hendrickson, who allowed Wilson to score on Everett’s single.

The Astros’ No. 5-8 hitters went 10-for-17 with seven runs scored.

“Whenever you get production like that from the bottom of the order, it’s always nice,” Everett said.

Sheets’ fastball didn’t have the zip it did in his previous three appearances since coming off the disabled list April 16. He reached 96 mph in the last inning of his last appearance, but never got above 92 mph on the radar gun Tuesday as his ERA ballooned to 6.64.

“I definitely didn’t feel like I had the zip like I’ve been having to throw the ball through the wall,” Sheets said.

Sheets said there were no physical problems with his shoulder or back, which have caused him separate stints on the disabled list the past two seasons. He also downplayed that he might be suffering from a tired arm as a result of limited spring training work.

“If I’m here in June like this, people ought to knock me upside the head,” he said.

Nieve (1-0) allowed three home runs in his third career start. Bill Hall had a two-run drive and J.J. Hardy and Damian Miller added solo shots.

Prince Fielder, named NL Rookie of the Month for April, doubled in Hardy in the eighth to cut the Astros’ lead to 8-5 and Hall came up as the tying run, but struck out to end the threat.

Notes

Brewers starter Tomo Ohka will have an MRI on Wednesday. He said he still felt stiff after being removed from Monday’s game with a right shoulder strain. Brewers manager Ned Yost said even if Ohka skips his next start, it won’t dramatically alter the rotation because of an off day coming up Monday. … The Brewers started Hall, who has homered in each of his last four games, in center field for the first time. Yost said he thinks “utility players” is a demeaning term toward players like Hall, Chone Figgins of the Angels and Ryan Freel of the Reds. He said they should be called “rovers.” … Garner said he just finished reading “Game of Shadows” on Tuesday. His thoughts? “It’s frightening,” he said. “It’s frightening what people will do to win.” … The Astros also started 17-9 in 1980.

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