MILWAUKEE -- Call it the seven-year pitch. Starter Ben Sheets dazzled through a shutout -- his first since his rookie season in 2001 -- and the Milwaukee Brewers swept the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, 7-0. Sheets allowed just five hits, with no walks and eight strikeouts, running a scoreless-innings streak to 15 1/3 opening the 2008 campaign. He faced the minimum over the game's final 17 batters and allowed just one baserunner after the fourth inning.
Despite a host of stellar outings in his career, including an 18-strikeout performance against Atlanta in 2004, Sheets had not thrown a shutout since May 29, 2001, against St. Louis. "I thought it would be easy [after the first complete game]," Sheets said. "It was like my 16th start or something or 15th. I thought I'd get 15, 20, 100 of these. Seven years later ... "It's hard to throw zeros at a big league team for nine innings," Sheets added. "I don't care how good you are, it's very hard. To have that one mistake hit out of the park, or back-to-back doubles, or that one unearned run. Circumstances are very hard." Sheets (1-0) served immediate notice that Sunday would be his day, striking out the side on 11 pitches in the first inning. "When the first pitch is at 92 miles an hour, you know that Benny's on, because normally it's 89 and takes him an inning or two to get it up to 92 to 94," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "Within three pitches, he was throwing 95 and his curveball was down, biting hard. You realized real quick. Anybody who was sitting in this stadium -- three strikeouts in 11 pitches -- had a pretty good idea that Benny was on top of his game." The win came on the heels of a no-decision in Monday's season opener at Chicago, where Sheets threw 6 1/3 clean frames, and gave the Brewers a 5-1 start to the season. For the second day in a row, Ryan Braun and Gabe Kapler each homered, a pair of solo shots in the fifth inning to make it 5-0, after Milwaukee tallied a single run in the second, third and fourth against Giants lefty Barry Zito (0-2). Braun finished 3-for-5 with three runs driven in, and Kapler picked up two RBIs. "I think at the beginning of the year, I had a little bit too much adrenaline," said Braun, who snapped an 0-for-10 mini-slump in Saturday's game. "I was feeling really good, and I was trying to do too much. For me, it was about getting back to basics and focusing on the little things. I think that's helped me slow down my approach a little bit and put together some better at-bats." Said Yost, "The pitch before [Braun's home run] they called a strike, and I thought it was an unhittable pitch. I thought, 'All right, that's not your pitch, I'm glad you took it.' The next pitch was in the exact same spot, and he smoked it. That's when I sat back and thought to myself, 'With this kid, that just shows you how special he is.'" Every position player recorded a hit, including Jason Kendall, who finished with a double, sacrifice fly and two runs scored. He also had a good view of Sheets' performance. "Sheets' stuff is amazing, but when you can hit your spots like he did today, it's unhittable," Kendall said. "He was pretty good from the first pitch on." J.J. Hardy drove in the game's first run with an RBI double in the second, and Kapler followed with his first of two RBIs with a sacrifice fly. Kendall sacrificed home another tally in the third, and Kapler and Braun left the yard within a span of three batters in the fifth. Braun added an RBI double in the seventh and a run-scoring single in the eighth. "Today was great because they kept tacking on," Sheets said. "We've had that a couple times this year already. We just keep tacking on, and to hold them to a zero after that inning just fuels that fire and keeps momentum." It was Sheets' 14th career complete game, and he threw 78 strikes in 109 pitches. Yost said there was "zero discussion" about sending his right-hander back out for the ninth with 101 tosses already under his belt. "I like finishing what I start," Sheets said.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.