PITTSBURGH (AP)—This won’t be remembered as one of the best games of Ben Sheets’ career, hardly. Not an 11-hitter in which every Pirates position player had at least one hit.
No matter, Sheets said the Brewers’ 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night was something special, if only for one reason. He was the pitcher at the start of the game, and the finish.
“They’re all special to me,” Sheets said of his 15th career complete game and second of the season. “They’re all tough to get.”
Rickie Weeks homered and scored twice as the Brewers, who began the three-game series Tuesday with a 20-42 record at PNC Park, put themselves in position to sweep a series there for the first time since the ballpark opened in 2001. Milwaukee lost nine in a row on the road before the series began.
Sheets (5-1), the Brewers’ ace, gave up 13 earned runs over 19 2-3 innings during his three previous May starts, losing once while getting two no-decisions. He was sharper in this start despite all the base runners, with the Pirates scoring only on Xavier Nady’s leadoff homer—his sixth—in the fourth.
“I felt like he was pretty much on top of his game the whole night,” manager Ned Yost said. “He made pitches when he needed, and his execution was key in crucial situations.”
Sheets was throwing harder in the ninth than he was in the first, hitting 95 miles per hour on the radar gun during the ninth. Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino said, “When we’d get two outs, he’d really come at us with his fastball.”
“My arm felt great the whole time, and that’s a plus because I threw a lot of pitches,” Sheets said.
The Pirates left nine on base and were 1-for-15 with runners on base against Sheets, who was working on a shutout against the Dodgers in his previous start last Thursday until he gave up six runs in the seventh. After the game, Sheets called it the worst inning of his career.
This certainly wasn’t the best start, but Sheets was efficient. He threw 85 of his 123 pitches for strikes and the Pirates had only base runner reach third, except for Nady. Sheets struck out six and walked none.
“I was a little embarrassed by what happened (against the Dodgers), and my goal today was to get through seven and have that clean seventh,” Sheets said. “Tonight was better than that.”
Even if Sheets gave up more than eight hits in a nine-inning complete game for the first time in the majors.
“They’re going to get hits, it’s the big leagues,” said Sheets, who is 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA in six road starts. “Sometimes you’re going to dominate, sometimes you’re going to give up hits.”
The Brewers took the lead against Ian Snell (2-3) when Corey Hart doubled and scored on J.J. Hardy’s single in the second. In the fifth, Weeks reached when first baseman Adam LaRoche misplayed his routine grounder and scored on Ryan Braun’s triple. Braun came in on Hart’s single to make it 3-1.
Weeks hit his sixth homer with two out in the sixth against Snell, who is winless in seven starts since April 12. Snell, 0-3 over that span, gave up nine hits and four runs, two earned, over six innings.
Snell won twice in his first three starts but hasn’t win since, lasting more than six innings only once in those seven starts.
“It’s still early, but it’s frustrating not getting the results I want early,” Snell said.
In the Pirates’ eighth, center fielder Mike Cameron fell down chasing LaRoche’s fly ball, which dropped for a double. Sheets got out of the inning when left fielder Braun ranged far into foul territory to make a sliding, hip-high backhanded catch of Doug Mientkiewicz’s fly ball.
The Pirates lost their fourth in five games and fell a game behind Milwaukee into fifth place in the NL Central. … Braun has 14 RBIs in 12 games. … Brewers RHP Eric Gagne, pulled during the ninth inning of Milwaukee’s 7-2 victory on Tuesday night with shoulder tightness, was held out. … The Pirates had won seven of eight at home before dropping the first two games of the series and had won 16 of their previous 22 there against Milwaukee. … Sheets has both Brewers complete games this season. He beat the Giants 7-0 on a five-hitter on April 6.