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Sheets shuts down Atlanta

POSTED: June 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Milwaukee Brewers starter Ben Sheets works in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Monday in Atlanta. Sheets earned the complete game victory as the Brewers defeated the Braves 4-1.

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ATLANTA — The best stat of the night for Milwaukee manager Ned Yost was the "zero" for pitches thrown in the bullpen by his relievers.

No relief necessary. Ben Sheets was on the mound.

Sheets gave up only four hits in a dominant complete-game performance, Mike Cameron hit a two-run homer and the Brewers beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Monday night.

Sheets (9-1) retired the final 16 batters for his National League-leading third complete game. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter.

Yost said he never considered having a reliever warm up. After the game, the manager sat and smiled at his daily log for his relievers.

"When I can write 'nobody' on this thing for my relievers throwing, it doesn't get any better than that," Yost said.

Yost spent 12 years on Braves manager Bobby Cox's staff, including 1991-98 as bullpen coach while Atlanta made four World Series appearances led by such starting pitchers as Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.

Yost said in the eight years in the Braves' bullpen, he had only one game without having a relief pitcher warm up.

Sheets said he aims for complete games "from when I toe the slab."

"I go for it from the beginning," he said.

Sheets kept his pitch counts low — 20 through two innings and 60 through five — and was at his best late in the game.

"He's got the best curveball in baseball," Cox said. "If you're gonna beat Sheets, your pitcher's got to pitch a heck of a game."

Sheets won his fifth straight decision and is 6-0 in 10 road starts, but scoffed at suggestions he's suddenly a "road genius."

"We've got a good team," he said. "We're going to win games."

The Brewers are 11-4 when Sheets starts, and both Yost and Sheets fielded questions about the possibility Sheets could be the National League's All-Star starter.
Is Sheets the NL's best pitcher?

"Oh yeah, no doubt," Yost said, adding Sheets is the best of "anybody in baseball, in both leagues."
Sheets pitched fast and threw strikes. Only 33 of his 106 pitches were balls.

"There's a lot of confidence on the team when he's pitching," said Rickie Weeks, who had three hits. "He just pounds it."

Jo-Jo Reyes (3-5) gave up four runs and six hits with two walks in 2 1-3 innings, the shortest of his 10 starts this season. He had lasted at least six innings in each of his five starts since May 28, when he gave up only one run in seven innings at Milwaukee while setting a career high with nine strikeouts.

Reyes fell behind early. Corey Hart led off the second with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-run homer to left by Cameron, who returned after missing three games with a hyperextended right big toe.

The Brewers scored two runs in the third on consecutive doubles by Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun. Reyes then walked Hart and Cameron to load the bases and was taken out of the game. Reliever Buddy Carlyle stranded the three baserunners, getting Bill Hall to line out to second and Jason Kendall to fly out to right.

Weeks had a season-high three hits, a walk and a stolen base in his second game back from the 15-day disabled list. He'd been out with a sprained left knee.

"Rickie got us going early," Cameron said. "That set the tone."

Carlyle pitched 4 1-3 scoreless innings, the longest appearance by an Atlanta reliever this season.
Atlanta scored its only run in the fourth. Kelly Johnson led off with a single, moved to third on Mark Teixeira's single and scored on Brian McCann's double-play groundout. The single was Teixeira's only hit after three homers against Seattle on Sunday.

Omar Infante, who followed McCann's groundout with an infield single, was Atlanta's last baserunner.

"We were lucky to get the double play that got the run," Johnson said.

Notes: Braves SS Yunel Escobar made his first start after missing two games with a hip injury. ... 3B Chipper Jones missed his third straight start with a strained right quadriceps, but the Braves slugger reported his first day of improvement. ... Brewers RHP Eric Gagne (right rotator cuff tendinitis) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday. ... Braves OF Mark Kotsay (lower back strain) will begin a minor league rehab stint at Double-A Mississippi on Tuesday.



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