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Ben Sheets outpitches Johan Santana and Brewers beat Mets 5-3

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Associated Press
April 13, 2008
— Johan Santana offered a succinct evaluation of his Shea Stadium debut for the New York Mets, a marquee matchup against Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets.

"He pitched good and I didn't," Santana said. "He was better than me."


That seemed fair after Sheets retired 18 straight Mets hitters and, backed by home runs from Bill Hall, Rickie Weeks and Gabe Kapler, beat Santana and the Mets 5-3 on Saturday.


It didn't start out very well for Sheets, who was coming off a shutout in his last start. He gave up two runs in the first inning and against Santana, that seemed like major trouble for the Brewers. The Milwaukee ace described his mindset after that.


"Don't give up no more," he said. "Figure out what you've got and put it in. Try and find another thing to do."


The other thing turned out to be an effective changeup ironically the same pitch that Santana has used to become one of baseball's premier pitchers. Sheets (2-0) mixed it well with his curve and fastball and had the Mets hitters off balance after pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the second. He did not allow another hit until David Wright's two-out homer in the eighth.


By then, home runs by Hall, Weeks and Kapler had rocked Santana (1-2).


"I felt good," the Mets ace said. "We were trying to establish my fastball early in the game. We made a couple of pitches that didn't do what they were supposed to do."


Santana (1-2), who allowed 33 home runs with Minnesota last season to lead the American League, worked his way out of a number of jams but was hurt by the long ball. He lasted 6 2-3 innings and allowed five runs and six hits with two walks, striking out seven and throwing two wild pitches.


Sheets allowed three runs and five hits in 7 2-3 innings with five strikeouts and two walks. But the Mets went from the third until the eighth without a baserunner.


He thought the changeup shouldn't have been any big deal.


"I got four or five outs with it," he said. "They're big league hitters. "They've seen changeups before."


Milwaukee manager Ned Yost thought it was a difference-maker though.


"If you've got three pitches a fastball, curve and change it's really tough on hitters," he said. "They don't know what's coming. Somebody as good as Benny, trying to develop a new pitch gives him another weapon."


Yost thought Sheets threw well from the start even though the Milwaukee right-hander didn't agree.


Angel Pagan led off the first against Sheets with a single, moved up on a wild pitch and an infield out and scored on David Wright's sacrifice fly. Then Carlos Beltran singled and came around on a double by Carlos Delgado.


"He threw the ball really well. He had nice stuff," Yost said. "They got two runs."


The Brewers got an unearned run back in the second.


Corey Hart, leading off, reached on an error by Wright and J.J. Hardy walked. Hart took third on Santana's second wild pitch of the game and scored on Sheets' bunt. Santana retired the next two hitters, leaving the tying run stranded at second.


Hall tied it for Milwaukee, hitting Santana's first pitch of the fourth inning for his fifth home run of the season.


It was the second home run in two nights for Hall.


An inning later, Weeks tagged a 2-2 pitch from Santana for his second homer to give the Brewers the lead. Then Kapler hit his third of the season in the seventh, a two-out, two-run shot that followed a walk to Weeks and finished Santana's day.


Kapler last had three home runs in a season in 2004, when he played for the Red Sox. He's hit his three homers in 22 at-bats.


Sheets did not allow a hit after the second inning until Wright's two-out homer in the eighth inning. The homer was Wright's second and just the fourth in 10 games for New York this season. When Sheets followed the homer by walking Beltran, Brian Shouse relieved for Milwaukee and retired Delgado on a comebacker.


Eric Gagne pitched the ninth for his second save in four chances.



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