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Brewers cruise behind Sheets

Brewers cruise behind Sheets

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MILWAUKEE -- The pitchers set the tone in the first inning Tuesday, and that was a good thing for Ben Sheets and the resurgent Brewers.

After Sheets breezed through a five-pitch, five-strike top of the first, San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum needed 27 pitches to get through his half, only throwing 11 for strikes and walking three batters, one to force in a run. Lincecum needed 25 more pitches in the second inning and surrendered three more runs, more than enough cushion for Sheets and the Brewers to breeze to a 6-2 win over the Giants at Miller Park.

Sheets (8-3) pitched a six-hit complete game, his second this season and the 13th of his career. It may not have been the right-hander's most dominating performance -- he struck out four and touched 96 mph with his fastball on only a handful of occasions -- but it was easily good enough to send San Francisco to its sixth straight loss.

Prince Fielder led the way with three RBIs, and the top three hitters in Milwaukee's batting order scored in each of the first two innings against an erratic Lincecum (2-2). Sheets has won four straight decisions and seven of his last eight.

"That's what we expect from Benny, to come out and pitch games like this," said manager Ned Yost, who had closer Francisco Cordero warming in the ninth inning but never had to make a move. "He was really efficient with his pitches, on the attack."

The National League Central-leading Brewers have taken each of the first two games in the series from the Giants and have won three consecutive series. Since they were no-hit by Detroit's Justin Verlander on June 12, Milwaukee's 20th loss in 30 games, the team has won six of seven.

Sheets even contributed a hit, a scorched single in the fourth inning that barely eluded Lincecum.

"That's definitely an accident," Sheets said.

With his first three-hit season since 2004 assured, might Sheets focus now on that first career home run?

"It depends whether I get a home game at Helfaer Field," Sheets cracked, referring to the youth facility on the site of old County Stadium.

That Sheets was in a joking mood reflected well on his outing. He was more subdued on Opening Day, when he fired a two-hit complete game at the Dodgers but did not feel particularly chipper about the performance.

Fastball location was the problem in that game, and Sheets considered himself lucky that Jeff Kent's solo home run was the only damage against him. On Tuesday, even with an average breaking ball, command carried the day.

"When you locate the heater, you feel a lot better about yourself," Sheets said. "My location was good. I wouldn't say my stuff was outstanding. Location makes your stuff, even if you have lack of stuff, pretty good. I thought we moved the ball well around the plate."

Yost was not as interested in the analysis.

"A complete game's a complete game," Yost said. "I don't care how you do it or how you get there. Those guys look at themselves a little more different than I do. Get a complete-game 'W,' I'm happy."

Ryan Klesko pounced on a first-pitch curveball for a two-run home run in the fourth inning, and Pedro Feliz followed with a single. But Sheets then retired 18 of the final 21 hitters he faced, including Omar Vizquel to end it. Had Vizquel reached, Yost would have turned to Cordero.

"You have to really sit back and trust that Benny is your No. 1 starter, that he's your man," said Yost, who allowed Sheets to bat for himself with a runner at third in the eighth. "You give him a six-run lead, and you have to have some trust that he's not going to give it up. He's going to get you through this game and he's going to pitch nine innings. He did it perfectly."

The only thing that slowed down Sheets in this two-hour, eight-minute affair was a visit from Yost in the second inning. The break in action was intended to benefit Fielder, who had just been hit below the belt by a throw from left fielder Geoff Jenkins.

It was not a particularly pleasant experience at the time, but Fielder could smile about it afterward.

"They know I don't like the trainers coming out there," Fielder said. "[Yost] gave me a little breather, let me get my stomach right."

Brewers leadoff man Corey Hart singled in each of the first two innings against Lincecum, who lasted only four innings and surrendered six runs on five hits and four walks. After Hart's single in the bottom of the first inning, Craig Counsell, Ryan Braun and Fielder each drew five-pitch walks, with Fielder's forcing in a run. Bill Hall and Johnny Estrada followed with consecutive sacrifice flies for a quick, 3-0 lead.

Fielder added a two-run double off Lincecum as the lead grew to 6-0 in the second inning, one of four straight Brewers hits in that frame, all with two outs.

"He throws so hard that you have to react really quick," Hart said. "We were fortunate that he was everywhere the first couple of innings. We took advantage."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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