"I didn't make any mistakes, but they hurt," Sheets said. "In my last game, I made a lot of mistakes, but they didn't hurt. Pitching is weird, just like baseball. You pitch good and the numbers read bad; you pitch bad, and the numbers read good."
Sheets was very good on Wednesday, according to Brewers manager Ned Yost, despite taking his second loss in three starts after beginning the year 9-1.
So good that when the first postgame question was about slumping Brewers reliever Guillermo Mota, who surrendered four runs and let the game get away in the eighth inning, Yost eventually answered like this:
"Benny Sheets pitched a great game tonight," Yost said, ignoring the question. "He was on top of his game. Eleven strikeouts. His 'stuff' was tremendous."
Sheets recorded his first seven outs via the strikeout and Brewers third baseman Bill Hall supplied an early 1-0 lead with a second-inning solo home run. But Sheets surrendered a game-tying RBI single to Scott Podsednik in the fifth inning and a go-ahead, two-run homer to Atkins in the sixth for a 3-1 lead the Rockies wouldn't relinquish.
Atkins hit a two-seam, sinking fastball that stayed up in the strike zone. Good pitch, bad location, according to Sheets.
"We had an opportunity to win the game. It ain't like I got us blown out," Sheets said. "We were right there within one [run] with a chance to win it. I go out there every day trying to keep us in the game, and I kept us in the game and gave us an opportunity to get that big hit."
The big hit that Sheets was waiting for never came against Rusch, who entered the night with a 7.36 ERA this season for Colorado and San Diego.
Hall's homer was all that Milwaukee could muster against Rusch, a left-hander who scattered five hits in six innings and was pulled from the game after throwing 83 pitches. Rusch was making just his second Rockies start.
"We struggled to score runs tonight," Yost said. "You give Benny a little bit of breathing room and it's a different story. [Rusch] threw a good game, but you look at the matchup going in and you think, 'Man.' But Glendon matched Benny pitch-for-pitch. He actually outpitched him there a little bit."
Not bad for a guy who did not pitch in the Majors in 2007.
"Last year, I was eating Dodger Dogs and nachos," Rusch said. "So this year has been fun."
Podsednik hit another RBI single off Mitch Stetter in the seventh inning, but the Brewers made it interesting in the bottom half of the frame, when Hall sparked a rally with a one-out double off reliever Manuel Corpas. Hall scored on a single by Mike Cameron, who later scored on an infield single by pinch-hitter Russell Branyan that glanced off first baseman Joe Koshansky's glove and cut the deficit to 4-3.
The Brewers never got closer than that. Corpas escaped the inning and the Rockies scored four times in the eighth against Mota, who already had a 10.13 ERA in his seven appearances before Wednesday. Atkins and Koshansky homered in the inning.
"Mota is struggling right now," Yost said. "He is. There's no way around it. But it seems he gets two quick outs and then the bottom falls out on him a bit. That's what happened tonight. We've got [David] Riske, who's throwing the ball well. [Eric] Gagne is throwing the ball well. [Carlos] Villanueva is throwing the ball well. We'll just cover for him until he gets himself straightened out."
All of those other relievers were available on Wednesday, Yost said. He wouldn't say whether Mota, who is "pushing" the baseball instead of throwing it on a hard, downward plane, according to Yost, would have to be moved out of the eighth-inning role.
"I don't make decisions like that after a game," said Yost, who used similar verbiage about relievers Gagne and Derrick Turnbow and starter Dave Bush earlier this season in advance of changes.
Yost was more interested in talking about Sheets, who is a candidate to start next week's All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium for a National League squad managed by Rockies skipper Clint Hurdle.
"I'm getting better," Sheets said. "I knew my fastball was coming along in my last couple of starts. I'm starting to get some swings and misses. I think I just need to be a little more in the zone.
"They swing through a lot of balls today, and normally, when you make a good pitch with a fastball, they put it in play and you get an out. When they swing through it, you need to make another good pitch. ... It makes it a little tougher."
Sheets added: "I want to keep that 'stuff,' though. I know that."