Sheets' two-hit, complete-game opener best since '92


• Summary: Brewers ace Ben Sheets needed just 104 pitches to earn his 12th career complete game and turn away the Dodgers 7-1 on Opening Day.

• Turning point: Sheets gave up a second-inning homer to Jeff Kent -- a shot that knotted the score 1-1 -- but then settled down and retired the next 22 batters.


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• Web Gem-worthy: In his debut as the Brewers' regular center fielder, Bill Hall made a diving catch going to his left in center field to start the third inning.

• Did you see that?: The Italian won the first sausage race of the season while the Chorizo, running its first full season, finished third.

• Elias Says: Big Ben pitched the first Opening Day complete game of two hits or less in 15 years.

-- news services

Brewers 7, Dodgers 1

MILWAUKEE -- Ben Sheets' stomach was in knots, and the

Brewers ace figured members of his family were doing jumping jacks

in the grandstands.

"Opening Day," Sheets said. "I've got a sumo wrestler

wrestling in my belly. I was nervous."

Then, Jeff Kent's home run wiped away the nerves and emotion,

and Sheets got down to the business of delivering one of the most

dominant performances by a pitcher in recent Opening Day history.

"Once he got me, I think that helped me kind of settle down,"

Sheets said.

And how.

After Kent led off the second inning with a solo homer, Sheets

regrouped to retire the next 22 batters he faced on his way to a

two-hitter in the Milwaukee Brewers' 7-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.

So much for Opening Day jitters.

It was the first Opening Day complete game of two hits or fewer

in 15 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last to do

it had been Tom Glavine with a two-hitter for Atlanta against

Houston in 1992.

"Sheets was tough," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "We

were thinking all through the game we'd be able to get to him if we

got him into the stretch -- but it never happened."

The Brewers' playoff hopes rest heavily on the shaky shoulders

of Sheets (1-0), who has shown flashes of the ability to become an

ace since his major league debut with Milwaukee in 2001 but has

made only 39 starts in the past two seasons because of injuries.

"I'm happy finally, hopefully, that now I don't have to

continue answering questions about Ben Sheets' health," Brewers

manager Ned Yost said. "I think we all saw it for ourselves


Sheets, who threw his 12th complete game in 167 starts, says the

shoulder problems that hounded him last year didn't bother him at

all in spring training. He still was throwing in the mid-90s in the

seventh, according to scoreboard radar gun readouts.

Showing off his notoriously offbeat sense of humor, Sheets said

he doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about whether he'll be

injured "tripping on a roller skate."

"I kind of think it's a non-issue, you know?" Sheets said.

The Brewers also were sharp on defense and patient at the plate,

two areas where they struggled last season.

J.J. Hardy was 3-for-4 with an RBI in his return from

season-ending ankle surgery last July. Bill Hall hit an

opposite-field line drive home run to right in the sixth -- and,

making his debut as the Brewers' regular center fielder, nearly

robbed Kent of his home run.

"I told the kids after the game that this, quite literally,

could be the best game that I've ever had the opportunity as a

manager to watch a team play," Yost said.

The Brewers didn't hit Dodgers starter Derek Lowe hard, but Lowe

struggled with his control and gave up six runs in four innings in

the loss (0-1). Lowe said Brewers hitters were showing more

patience than they had in the past.

"If I had a little better command, I probably could have given

them a better fight," Lowe said. "Overall, it's one we all want

to forget in an hour."

Lowe didn't help himself by giving up five walks, but he also

didn't get much help from two new Los Angeles outfielders. Juan Pierre and Luis Gonzalez were signed to provide veteran leadership

to a team considered a World Series contender, but both misplayed

balls in their Dodgers debut.

Milwaukee took a 2-1 lead in the second after Corey Hart lined a

ball into center and advanced to second base when Pierre bobbled

the ball -- although Hart was credited with a double. Hart stole

third and scored on Hardy's single.

Milwaukee then broke open the game in the fourth thanks in part

to a misplayed fly ball by Gonzalez. Geoff Jenkins then hit a high

fly ball that Gonzalez lost track of near the wall. The ball

bounced near the warning track, allowing Prince Fielder and Estrada

to score and make it 6-1. Jenkins was credited with a double.

Gonzalez said the window panels in Miller Park's roof can make

fly balls an adventure during day games, but wasn't overly

concerned with one loss.

"We can't panic after one," Gonzalez said with a smile.

"We've been doing this a long time. By no means is the pennant out

of reach."

Yost, meanwhile, was beaming about the way his team played and

saw only one flaw in Sheets' performance.

"Well, he struck out three times today," Yost said.

Game notes
Little said he switched some of the team's signs for this

series because former Dodgers reliever Elmer Dessens now pitches

for Milwaukee. Dessens was traded for outfielder Brady Clark and

cash March 26. ... Clark took over for Andre Ethier in right field

in the fifth inning. ... Hall made a diving catch going to his left

in center field in the third inning. ... Little, no fan of opening

day fanfare, said his players would try their best to enjoy pregame

festivities. "I think there's going to be a flyover," Little

deadpanned. Miller Park's retractable roof was closed.