Starting Sheets Risky Move at Best

Milwaukee starter Ben Sheets lasted only 2.1 innings Saturday against the Cubs and obviously wasn't sharp after an arm injury sidelined him the past 10 days.

His heart was in it. The problem is that Ben Sheets should have used his head in telling Milwaukee interim manager Dale Sveum whether he was ready to pitch Saturday against Chicago.

Because it was obvious almost from his first offering that the right-hander, who hadn't taken the mound since leaving after two innings with elbow trouble against the Cubs on Sept. 17, didn't have it in his arm either.

One can argue that Sveum should have made the decision not to look in Sheets' eyes for the answer. He should have started somebody else—namely Dave Bush—instead of the oft-injured former ace in such an important game.

The NL Central champion Cubs' junior varsity raked Sheets for five hits and four runs—one unearned--in 2.1 innings. Sheets faced 15 batters, and seven of them reached on hits or walks and several others smacked the ball hard.

Sheets didn't have his velocity while his command was atrocious, and the Brewers couldn't afford to face a 4-0 deficit with a 26-year playoff drought hanging over their heads.

It became an even bigger hole when an anemic offense, which resembled the one that scuffled mightily while compiling a 3-11 record during Ned Yost's last two weeks as skipper, returned against Chicago's Ted Lilly. The Brewers' bats looked as lifeless as Sheets' pitches. Even though some of Sheets' pitches registered higher on the radar gun than Lilly's, the latter was 100 percent healthy and the former couldn't say the same.

It would have been completely different had it been July, August or even early September. But the final weekend of the regular season isn't the time to worry about hurting somebody's feelings by telling Sheets that somebody else would be used.

The Mets had just posted a 2-0 victory over Florida behind a complete-game shutout from their No. 1 starter, Johan Santana, as Sheets toed the rubber, meaning that Milwaukee needed a victory and quality start to stay in the driver's seat.

Now the Brewers need to win Sunday to assure themselves of at least reaching a wild-card tiebreaking game, unless, of course, New York loses. But there are no guarantees.

And it also forced Milwaukee's hand in that it has to start CC Sabathia on three days rest again instead of clinching things and potentially allowing the big southpaw to get a much-needed break before a postseason opener. It'll be a tough proposition, considering that Sabathia hasn't fared too well against the Cubs.

Regardless of whether the Brewers would have rallied or won behind Bush—who tossed three hitless innings—starting Sheets was too big of a risk with so much on the line.


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