Brewers rebound behind Sheets, Braun to beat Cubs 6-1

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CHICAGO (AP)—Ben Sheets pitched like the ace he is for the Milwaukee Brewers, pushing aside a long layoff and giving his slumping team a needed lift.

Carlos Zambrano, however, finished August without a victory.

Sheets came off the disabled list and outpitched the Cubs’ ace in a 6-1 victory Wednesday night that moved the Brewers within 1 1/2 games of NL Central-leading Chicago.

“It’s kind of empty feeling. It’s something that you wait seven years to be a part of and to not be a part of that August was tough,” Sheets said. “There is a month left and I can do something about that month. I’ve got six starts, and that’s what I’m going to try to make count.”

Sheets (11-4) was activated Wednesday and worked six innings, allowing a run and six hits in his first win since June 30.

He’d been on the DL since July 16 with a sprained finger on his pitching hand and also had been slowed by a blister. But he made 86 pitches and showed why he is a Brewers’ leader.

Milwaukee needed the boost—the victory was just its fourth in 15 games. With Sheets sidelined for 40 games, the Brewers lost their lead in the division and were 14-26. Now, he’s back for the stretch.

“We’ll see. Hopefully it carries over and has a good effect on us,” Sheets said.

The Cubs didn’t give Zambrano much run support, and normally sure-handed shortstop Ryan Theriot made an error in Milwaukee’s four-run seventh, an inning highlighted by Ryan Braun’s bases-loaded double.

“Anybody can make an error,” Zambrano said. “I don’t complain about that. I just didn’t throw the right pitch. It’s my fault, not Theriot’s or somebody else’s. I tried to keep the ball down, but I elevated it to Ryan Braun and he hit it well.”

Zambrano (14-11) has not looked like Chicago’s No. 1 starter.

He has tried six times to get his 15th victory—he has four losses, a no-decision when he had to leave a game with heat cramping and another start that was rained out after three innings.

He is winless since signing a $91.5 million, five-year contract extension on Aug. 17 and hasn’t won since July 29. In 6 1-3 innings Wednesday night, he gave up nine hits and six runs—five earned.

Manager Lou Piniella was wondering after the game what happened to the Zambrano who won nine of 11 starts during a stretch in June and July.

“I don’t know what the problem is. He’s certainly not pitching like he was on that streak,” Piniella said. “We need for this guy to get back to pitching the way he was.”

Zambrano promised a return to his old self.

He (Piniella) will see the same Zambrano that was in June and July. Any pitcher can be in a tough situation during the season,” Zambrano said.

The Brewers moved ahead in the fifth. After Zambrano hit Rickie Weeks with a pitch for the second time in the game with two outs, Gabe Gross hit an RBI double to right center and the Brewers went up 2-1.

Braun’s two-run double in the seventh came after the Brewers nearly tripped up during their big rally.

Weeks singled and Gross reached on a fielder’s choice and error when Theriot couldn’t catch second baseman Mark DeRosa’s flip after a grounder, putting runners at first and second.

But when Prince Fielder dumped a single into left center that would certainly have scored the speedy Weeks, he fell over third base and had to scramble back to the bag, leaving the bases loaded.

But Braun picked up Weeks and the Brewers by lacing a double into the left field corner to make it 4-1 and finish Zambrano. Geoff Jenkins then greeted reliever Scott Eyre with a two-run single.

“We got our ace back and we get our swagger back,” Braun said. “That was huge.”

Aramis Ramirez’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the third.

Fielder doubled leading off the fourth and the Brewers tied it on Corey Hart’s two-out triple into the right field corner.


Sheets’ previous win on June 30 came against the Cubs. He is 9-7 in his career against the Cubs, including 2-1 this season. He is 5-4 lifetime at Wrigley Field. … Chicago RF Cliff Floyd made a nice catch of Weeks’ liner to right leading off the game, jumping up and hitting the wall with his back. He was momentarily shaken up. … Kerry Wood struck out two batters in the eighth inning, giving him 1,307 for his career, moving him ahead of Greg Maddux (1,305) for fourth place on the Cubs’ career list.

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