Big Ben goes the distance

21 05 2008

I was a little worried coming into tonight’s game.  Eric Gagne was on his way to Milwaukee to get tests done on his right shoulder, so he was unavailable tonight.  The bullpen lost another arm as well because Seth McClung is scheduled to start on Saturday.  Carlos Villanueva technically was available tonight, but I don’t think Ned Yost had any plans to use him.  Needless to say, the Brewers’ ace, Ben Sheets, needed to eat up some innings tonight to save the depleted bullpen.

Brewers fans got more than they hoped for tonight.  Ben Sheets pitched a complete game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, scattering 11 hits over the nine innings and only allowing one run.  The one run came on a Xavier Nady solo home run in the fourth inning.

Ben may not have had his best stuff tonight, but he was more than effective.  He struck out five batters in the first four innings, but only retired one more Pirate on strikes through the next five.  The pitch count was a little high, but those 123 pitches are a little less concerning in the cooler weather.  Pirates hitters jumped on Ben’s first pitch fastballs all night, and they pounded out 11 hits.  It all came for naught, however, as Ben consistently worked out of jams and got the Pirates hitters to pop out numerous times.

The offense may be coming together.  The Crew may have only put four runs on the board, but hitters consistently hit the ball hard and still matched the Pittsburgh hit total with eleven.  Ryan Braun and Corey Hart continue to see the ball very well.  Ryan hit a two-strike pitch from Ian Snell to the deepest part of the ballpark and got an RBI-triple.  Corey followed up Ryan’s triple with a two-strike, two-out bloop single.  It may not have been pretty, but the 6’6″ right fielder kept the bat in the hitting zone and put the bat on the ball.  He protected with two strikes.  That’s all a hitter can do.

Folks, Rickie Weeks has officially arrived as a fully-functioning lead-off hitter.  In the past four games, the second baseman is hitting .412 with 3 RBI, a home run, and 5 runs scored.  It is no coincidence that the offense has been producing much more when Rickie hits well.  Rickie even flashed a little leather in tonight’s game, snagging a tough chopper on a bad bounce.  I cannot say enough about how well Rickie is playing right now.  He is an exciting player when he sees the ball well.

The Brewers clinched the series tonight.  That means that Milwaukee just won a series in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2006.  Chew on that bit of knowledge.

Records: Brewers (22-24); Pirates (21-25)

Hero of the Game: Ben Sheets

What can you say about a guy that goes out on the mound and gives a struggling team a complete game when the bullpen was shorthanded?  He’s a bona fide ace in every sense of the word, even if he is a little injury prone.  I’m not sure how many change-ups he threw for the entire game, but he began to work in the change a bit in the ninth inning.  That pitch could be huge in saving his arm down the stretch of the season.  Benny mixed in a solid curveball today with a pretty good fastball.  The Pirates don’t get cheated up there at the plate.  They pounded out 11 hits today, but Benny was able to limit the damage to one run.  I tip my cap to you tonight, Ben.  You proved to all the Brewers fans around the country tonight that you are the ace of the staff, whether or not Yovani Gallardo is healthy.  Well done.

Goat of the Game: Craig Counsell

I’m not completely sure there was a true goat of the game tonight, but Craig was the only Brewer to take the collar tonight.  Even Ben Sheets had a hit tonight.  Craig did not play a bad game.  He’s just the only one to give the goat to tonight.

On Tap

Dave Bush will swap spots in the rotation with Jeff Suppan for tomorrow evening’s game.  Bush will take on lefty Tom Gorzelanny in the third game of the series.  The Brewers will go for the sweep tomorrow night at 6:05pm CT.

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