"Like we're a game and a half out," Yost said, referring to the team's standing entering the day. "We're fighting for a pennant. It doesn't all hinge on one start. Do we all, anxiously, hope Benny can start that game? Yes."
But the whole team is better with Sheets in the rotation. The Brewers went 15-26 from July 15 to Aug. 28 while Sheets was on the disabled list with a finger injury, then went 12-6 after he returned.
Now his status is up in the air once again, and the Brewers are prepared to give the right-hander as much time as he needs to determine his availability for Sunday, even if that means sending a "Plan B" pitcher to the bullpen while Sheets does his pregame warmups.
Should Sheets be unable to pitch because of his strained left hamstring, that Plan B would be left-hander Chris Capuano, not right-hander Claudio Vargas, according to Yost. That's because Capuano has solid career numbers against the Braves (3.60 ERA and .206 opponents' batting average), and because Atlanta is 29-32 against left-handed starters this season.
Yost said he still hoped to have Sheets for Sunday. But Sheets, who returned to the team after undergoing an MRI scan in Milwaukee, said he will not pitch unless he is healthy.
"This season has been too long for somebody to try to be a hero," Sheets said. "You do need heroes, but not like that. You need performance."
Sheets played catch on Friday and expected to throw a more strenuous session on Saturday to test his hamstring. Sheets, Yost and pitching coach Mike Maddux are expected to convene Saturday afternoon to make a decision, hopefully avoiding dragging the uncertainty into Sunday.
For his part, Sheets said he has felt progressively better in the days since the injury.
"I'm starting to walk better," Sheets said. "It ain't grabbing as I walk, so to me, that's good.
"But you can't simulate what you're going to do out there [on the mound]. If a player gets [a hamstring strain], they say it hurts on acceleration and when they stop. Well, I'm stopping every time I throw the ball. That leg is stopping me 100 times a game."
He added: "If I can go out there and make pitches, I'm going to go out there. If I don't think I can, I'm not going to do it. We have plenty of healthy guys on this team who can get outs."
Injured Brewers left-hander Manny Parra threw a second bullpen session on Thursday and was hoping to face hitters before the team left Atlanta.
Instead, he was activated from the disabled list on Friday. Parra was as surprised as anybody.
"When I walked in today, they said that was the deal," Parra said. "They'll put me in there in the right situation, and I am confident that I will pitch fine to hitters."
Finding that "right situation" could be the issue. Yost made it clear that he will not throw a pitcher who has not seen the mound in three weeks into a pressure situation, and he probably would hesitate to use Parra even if the Brewers have a comfortable lead. But if the Brewers happen to be on the losing end of a blowout, Parra could be used to save the other bullpen arms.
Parra had been on the DL since Aug. 31. He fractured a bone in his thumb during a bunt attempt at Chicago.
"It's not like you'll see Manny in any huge situation," Yost said. "But it's another arm down there and he's available to come off [the DL], so why not?"
Parra worked on mechanical adjustments in Thursday's throwing session and said he was hoping to pitch again this season.
"I would love to," Parra said. "If I can help the team at all, I would love that. I would much rather end the season pitching in a game rather than not. But as long as I leave the season feeling good and healthy, I will be happy."
Second baseman Rickie Weeks homered in three straight games and what did it get him? A spot on the bench when the Brewers faced Atlanta sinkerballer Tim Hudson on Friday.
Craig Counsell started in Weeks' place and Yost declined to explain the move on the record, believing it could give future opponents an advantage. But Yost did say the decision was not related to past performance (Counsell was 6-for-17 lifetime against Hudson and Weeks was 0-for-8), and insisted that Weeks was not nursing any injuries.
"I'm not going to explain it," Yost said. "It's something that could come back."
Yost said Weeks would be back in the lineup on Saturday against John Smoltz, despite some similar splits. Weeks is 0-for-6 lifetime against Smoltz with three strikeouts, while Counsell is 8-for-16.
Center fielder Bill Hall also returned to the lineup on Friday. It was just Hall's second start since Sept. 9.
"Billy has been swinging the bat really, really well in [batting practice]," said Yost, who also pointed out Hall's .462 career average against Hudson. "Billy's starting to get his stroke back."
On deck: Rookie right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who has not allowed a run in his last three starts spanning 21 innings, will try to extend the streak for a national television audience on Saturday. The Brewers' game against Smoltz and the Braves will air on FOX at 2:55 p.m. CT.