For the fifth time in eight Ben Sheets starts since the acquisition of CC Sabathia, Milwaukee came out on the losing end, falling by a 5-2 count to the Houston Astros on Tuesday. The Astros tagged Sheets for a pair of two-out extra-base hits that provided the entirety of the offense and kept Sheets stuck on one win since the trade that gave Milwaukee one of the league's premier rotation twosomes.
Michael Bourn's two-run triple tied the game in the third, and Geoff Blum hit a three-run homer with two outs in the sixth against Sheets (11-7), who saw his ERA inflate to a season-high 3.16. The right-hander, who lasted seven or more innings in a full half of his first 16 starts this season, has navigated that far just twice in the past nine outings.
"It seems like I didn't make many mistakes, but the ones that were, they hit hard," Sheets said. "My stuff was good in the zone, but I'm having trouble getting it away, getting under the zone or to the side of the zone. It's something I need to just work on doing."
Sheets, who allowed five runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in six innings, fell to 1-5 over his past seven starts.
"I ain't pitching great, but I don't think I'm pitching as bad as it's made out to be," Sheets said. "I pitched plenty of winnable games, I pitched plenty of losable games in that stretch. In the first half, I came away with a lot of victories, pitching the same way I have this time. It's a long season, with ups and downs."
J.J. Hardy and Mike Cameron each hit an RBI double in the first two innings, but the Brewers could have come away with more. Hardy was thrown out trying to take third on the throw back to the infield, and Cameron was easily retired in the fourth on a play at the plate when he tried to score on Ray Durham's base hit.
"We definitely had our opportunities to score some runs early," manager Ned Yost said.
"Hardy's wasn't a baserunning mistake; it's aggressive baserunning," the skipper added. "You can't just stop on a double there, because if they make a play at the plate, he walks into third. You're either going to make them make a play on you at third base or a play at the plate, and you get the run."
Cameron was waived home by third-base coach Dale Sveum, and Hunter Pence's throw from right field beat the speedy veteran by several steps.
"As a third-base coach, that's a hard call right there," Yost said. "You've got a great baserunner at second base and a ball that just barely squibbles through the infield. Pence had shallowed up some and made a good throw."
The Brewers left the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings. Gabe Kapler made the third out on both occasions against righty Brian Moehler (9-4), who survived despite allowing nine hits over 5 1/3 innings.
"We just haven't been getting [Sheets] runs," said catcher Jason Kendall, who did record three singles on the night. "He made one mistake tonight, got a changeup up [to Blum]. We haven't helped him too much."
Sheets played a part in the offensive woes. The light-hitting pitcher came to the plate with two runners on and no outs in both of those bases-loaded innings, but popped a bunt to the catcher on one attempt and popped out to shallow right in the fourth. The Houston bullpen kept Milwaukee from mounting further chances, retiring the last 11 Brewers in order.
"That's the reality of the situation," Sheets said, referring to the lack of run support. "Early [in the season], I had a lot of room for error. Sometimes I get caught up in trying not to make the mistake, because one can be the difference right now."
In Sheets' past four losses, the Brewers have scored just five runs.
"I'm very capable of winning some of the games that I haven't won and vice versa in the first half," Sheets added. "People just want to look at your won-loss record to [see] how you're pitching, but I'd say I had two really bad [starts] since the All-Star break. All the other ones, I've kept us right there."
Said Kendall, "He's pitched fine. He's had the same stuff in every start."
JR Radcliffe Is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.