Six days after he took a perfect game into the seventh inning, Sheets surrendered four runs over six innings against the Cardinals and watched the game slip completely away from deposed closer Derrick Turnbow in the seventh. By the time Cardinals hitters were finished running around the bases at Miller Park, St. Louis had handed Milwaukee a 12-2 loss.
"It kind of exploded on us there in the seventh inning," Brewers manager Ned Yost said.
Cardinals second baseman Ronnie Belliard hit a solo home run off Sheets and scored four runs, and shortstop Aaron Miles had four hits and three RBIs to support Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver (4-4). The St. Louis right-hander took the win after allowing two runs and five hits in six innings, striking out four with no walks.
Sheets (5-7) surrendered four runs and matched a season high allowing 10 hits in six innings, but the more compelling story was Turnbow, whose mysterious and maddening second-half slide continued. Turnbow entered in the seventh with the Brewers only trailing by a pair at 4-2, and he retired Albert Pujols on a groundout to open the frame.
Then it fell apart. St. Louis hung six runs on Turnbow and Dan Kolb in the inning, aided by four singles, three Turnbow walks and a costly error by shortstop Bill Hall that led to four unearned runs. Left-hander Brian Shouse eventually had to come in to bail out Kolb, who was charged with one earned run that went in the books as unearned against the team on a rules technicality.
"The last month, when one thing goes wrong, it just snowballs," Sheets said. "We actually played a pretty good game today, but at the end it just snowballs and looks terrible. The other day in Washington, it snowballs and looks terrible.
"If you pitch well, nothing looks terrible."
The common denominator in those games Sheets was talking about? Turnbow.
He was charged with three earned runs in one-third of an inning on Sunday against the Nationals, and five more, two of them earned, in another one-third of an inning on Tuesday. An All-Star earlier this season, Turnbow has a 13.50 ERA over his last 25 games.
"You do everything you can, work as hard as you can, try to push through, and whatever you do you can't get out of it," Turnbow said. "You pitch good, and things don't go your way. You pitch bad, and things don't go your way.
"Tonight, I just felt lost. I pitched in Washington and I felt really good, and I pitched good and didn't get the results. Tonight, I got Pujols out on the first pitch and I felt fine. I just couldn't get it going. I couldn't find the strike zone."
|"You try to give him every opportunity to snap out of it. He shows, every once in a while, flashes of form, and teases you with a good inning and you think you're getting somewhere. Then it's back to being unable to command his pitches."|
|-- Ned Yost on Derrick Turnbow|
But will Turnbow get any more chances? Not if the Brewers are playing a game they have a chance to win, Yost said.
"You try to give him every opportunity to snap out of it," Yost said. "He shows, every once in a while, flashes of form, and teases you with a good inning and you think you're getting somewhere. Then it's back to being unable to command his pitches.
"We need to start at Square 1 with him a little bit, simplify his mechanics. He's trying different things, trying to get on top of the ball so he can command the ball a little bit. His stuff is good enough; his command is off. It's a big issue right now."
Turnbow was tagged with five runs, two of them earned because of Hall's bobble, on one hit, three walks and a wild pitch. He said he feels mentally "fine" and physically "fine," but lamented that "something is just missing."
The Brewers rewarded Turnbow for his 39-save effort in 2005 with a three-year, $6.5 million contract through 2008.
"I'll take a mental break this offseason and get it ironed out," he said. "I'll get back to the caliber of pitcher I know I can be. ... I've been through this before. In 2004, at Triple-A, I had a bad season [in the Angels organization] and was put on waivers. I've been through this before. I know I'm capable of getting out of it. It's something mechanical."
Sheets conceded that Turnbow's slump has been difficult to watch.
"He's tried everything," Sheets said. "What I don't understand, from the outside, how the swings [against him] are better all of a sudden. It looks like people are more confident in the batter's box. ... People never took those kinds of swings."
Yost was asked whether he will regret giving Turnbow too many chances this season.
"We're talking about an All-Star closer," Yost said. "So this isn't a yearlong event. This is a guy who's shown that he can do it and be a pretty dominant force in the National League. This has been from the All-Star break on where this has happened."
Other options at that time included Jose Capellan, who has been just as shaky (12.71 ERA over his last seven outings) or Chris Spurling, who pitched Monday. The Brewers are without setup man Matt Wise, who had elbow surgery earlier this month, and Yost said he preferred to save Rick Helling and Geremi Gonzalez for long relief situations. Helling continues to experience elbow stiffness -- something he's pitched with all season -- and has also been managing a minor knee injury, Yost said.
The Cardinals added two runs in the eighth inning against Dennis Sarfate, who walked two more and surrendered two hits.
Would he consider shutting Turnbow down for the remaining 11 games?
"No," Yost said. "You just don't quit."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.