Manager Ned Yost says it is understandable that right-hander Ben Sheets has been somewhat frustrated with his results in recent weeks, but he does not believe the veteran right-hander is pressing to keep up with new ace CC Sabathia.
"He hasn't shown me anything in the way he goes about his business that he's trying to keep up with anybody," Yost said. "He's being his old self."
Very little has gone wrong for Sabathia since coming from Cleveland on July 7. In nine starts, he is 8-0 with a 1.60 ERA. Sabathia also has contributed many big hits to help his cause.
Sheets, on the other hand, is 1-5 over his last eight starts. His ERA over that span is 4.06, certainly not horrible but leaving just enough margin to get beat.
"He's not really pitching that bad," Yost said. "I'm sure (he's getting frustrated) a little bit. It gets to the point where you have good first halves and the second halves are always a struggle. I'm sure there's frustration."
Yost referred to Sheets' history of pitching better before the All-Star break than after. In seven previous seasons with the Brewers, he went 46-40 with a 3.61 ERA in 108 starts before the break and 27-34 with a 4.12 ERA in 82 starts afterward.
Brewers 5, Astros 2
Left-hander Manny Parra wasn't sharp, allowing six hits, four walks and two runs in five innings but won for the first time in six starts. Prince Fielder delivered two runs with sacrifice flies, J.J. Hardy hit a big two-run homer and substitute left fielder Gabe Kapler doubled in a run and saved another by throwing out a runner at the plate.
The moment of truth came in the eighth inning when reliever Eric Gagne escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam. Hunter Pence hit a comebacker that Gagne turned into a 1-2-3 double play, and David Newhan bounced out to first. And the Brewers were home free.
--Second baseman Rickie Weeks was back in the starting lineup after missing two games with a sprained left thumb. Weeks drew three walks in four plate appearances and scored each time.
--Left fielder Ryan Braun sat out his second consecutive game after aggravating an intercostal strain around his lower ribcage. The Brewers are off today, and Braun will be re-evaluated Friday.
--Parra had failed five times to win his 10th game before finally succeeding Sunday. "I had absolutely nothing," he said.
--Fielder pounded out two sacrifice flies to give him 10 for the season, most in the National League.
--Righty Carlos Villanueva, who pitched two scoreless innings against Houston, has a 2.14 ERA in 26 relief outings since moving from the rotation early in the season.
Denny Bautista has always been intriguing because of his live right arm. With that arm healthy, the right-hander feels he is ready for a breakthrough.
Bautista has gone 4-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 19 relief appearances for the Pirates since being acquired from Detroit in a June trade for minor league pitcher Kyle Pearson. Bautista credits his success to feeling healthy after missing most of May with the Tigers because of shoulder tendonitis.
"My shoulder feels very good now, and that makes a big difference," Bautista said Wednesday. "I've been able to work very hard on all pitches and am starting to throw them all for strikes at any time. Control has always been my problem in the big leagues. I've always felt if I could throw strikes consistently that I could be successful."
Bautista, 26, hasn't exactly had pinpoint control, as he has issued 12 walks in 24 1/3 innings with the Pirates. However, his overall command has been better than at any point in his career that started with Baltimore (2004) and has included stops with Kansas City (2005-06), Colorado (2006-07) and Detroit (2008).
"He still has some misfires, but his control has gotten better since he has been here," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He has a great arm, there's no question about that, and now he's starting to get a better feel for pitching as he is gaining more experience."
Bautista has been gaining Russell's trust in recent weeks, as he has been used in more late-inning pressure situations. Tuesday night, he was called in to face Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in the eighth inning with the Pirates leading 1-0, two outs and a runner on first base. Bautista retired Pujols on a fly ball to center.
"To me, that was very important to be asked to face Pujols in that situation," Bautista said. "It gives me confidence because now they know they can use me in big situations."
Cardinals 11, Pirates 2
Jason Davis was rocked for eight runs, six earned, and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings in taking the loss as the Pirates split the two-game road series. Davis (1-3) had allowed only two runs in 13 innings in his first two starts after being moved into the rotation from the bullpen.
Ryan Doumit had three hits for the second consecutive game, including a double and a home run. His two-run homer accounted for all of the Pirates' scoring.
--Left fielder Brandon Moss returned to the lineup sooner than expected Wednesday night, three days after suffering a sprained right ankle. He went 2 for 4 with a double. The Pirates were so encouraged with how Moss looked while running during pregame drills Tuesday that they decided he was ready to go Wednesday.
--Center fielder Nate McLouth missed his second consecutive game because of the flu and was again replaced in the lineup by Nyjer Morgan, who was 1-for-3 with a double and two walks. McLouth is hopeful of playing Friday in the opener of a three-game series in Milwaukee.
--Righty Matt Capps pitched one scoreless inning of relief, walking one, for Class AA Altoona on his injury rehabilitation assignment. Capps, on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis, has worked three scoreless innings in three appearances for Altoona and is expected to rejoin the Pirates on Friday in Milwaukee and possibly be activated that night.
--Class AA lefty Dave Davidson, who finished last season with the Pirates and is on the 40-man roster, has pitched five scoreless innings at the Olympics for Canada.
--Pirates Alumni Association President Kent Tekulve, second in franchise history with 158 career saves, received the 2008 Bill Shea Distinguished Graduate award Wednesday at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. The award goes to the former Little Leaguer associated with Major League Baseball who exemplifies the spirit of the Little League program.
By the numbers
2.6--Runs the Pirates averaged in their first 17 games of August after trading left fielder Jason Bay and right fielder Xavier Nady in late July.
Quote of the day
"I don't think anybody can deny that we're missing a couple of big bats with Jason Bay and Xavier Nady gone. We've got some younger guys in the lineup now who are trying to get their feet on the ground and it's been an adjustment."--Russell, on his struggling offense.