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Sheets' meltdown leaves Dodgers victorious

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McClatchy-Tribune
May 15, 2008
— A historic day for the Milwaukee Brewers off the field turned into a forgettable dud on it.

Five hours after the franchise announced it had signed left fielder Ryan Braun to a Brewers record $45 million contract extension through 2015, the players exited the dugout after a late-game loss Thursday that got out of hand in a hurry.


Ace pitcher Ben Sheets, who will be seeking a free-agent payday after this season, was stunning for six innings, retiring the Los Angeles Dodgers in order in the first three innings before scattering three hits through six.


But that seventh was a totally different tale.


As if the belle of the ball had turned into a pumpkin between innings, Sheets gave up six hits and six runs to the first seven batters of the seventh before being relieved. But more than enough damage had been done to stake the Dodgers to a 7-2 victory, again dropping the Brewers under .500 (20-21) in front a Miller Park crowd that started the day giddy about having Braun locked up.


Sheets was anything but after the game.


“That was a rough one,” he said. “I’m better than that. That was a lot of runs to give up in one inning.


“It kind of was baffling. I would say that’s probably my worst inning ever, personally. I don’t know if it statistically is, but it wasn’t a good inning.”


Not in the least.


Sheets got the Dodgers in order the first time through the lineup before giving up a leadoff single to Juan Pierre in the fourth. Sheets came back and had a 1-2-3 fifth thanks to a double play, and did the same in the sixth after picking off Pierre to end it.


But Sheets, who suffered his first loss of the season (4-1, 3.25 earned-run average), imploded in the seventh inning for no apparent reason other than he couldn’t get his straight pitches down or keep his breaking pitches off a hanger.


Andruw Jones, this season’s poster boy for bad baseball contracts with his .182 average, smoked a 2-0, letter-high fastball over the left-field fence to lead off the seventh and break a scoreless tie.


After getting a ground-ball out, Sheets gave up another home run on a 1-0 curveball that dipped right into Jeff Kent’s wheelhouse and made it 2-0.


James Loney tripled. Russell Martin singled him home, making it 3-0.


Luis Maza singled for his first big-league hit. Gary Bennett smashed another hanging curve into the left-field walkway for a three-run bomb that made it 6-0.


“He got some pitches up,” manager Ned Yost said. “It just got away from him. He was cruising, and it just kind of snowballed on him.


“It wasn’t fatigue. He was very short on pitch count. I don’t even think he knows what happened.”


Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley was as good as Sheets in the first six innings, but he never had the implosion. Instead he motored through the seventh and into the eighth before he was relieved and finished with three hits and one run allowed.


The Brewers never got anything good going with fewer than two outs. Their recent offensive problems had stemmed from not hitting with runners in scoring position, and they were 0-for-3 Thursday. But this time, they struggled to even get anyone past first base.


The two runs came on a double-play ball with Jason Kendall on third and a home run to center by Braun, a capper to his big business day.


“That was definitely nice, but more important was the game, and we lost,” Braun said. “(Billingsley) had good command. He was ahead and didn’t make many mistakes over the plate. When you combine those two things, you’re not going to get too many opportunities to score runs.”


Sheets was that way for a while and said changes of some kind will be made to ensure he doesn’t have another inexplicable blow-up.


“I’m going to fix something,” he said, frustrated that he couldn’t give an exact diagnosis of why he melted down. “Something’s going to be fixed. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I’m going to fix it.


“I felt like I was getting better (as the game went), but it’s tough to end it like that.”



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