Sheets' six shutout innings earn Brewers overdue series win


• Summary: Ben Sheets tossed six shutout innings, as the Brewers blanked the Marlins 3-0.


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• The big picture: Milwaukee won its first series since sweeping the Nationals on May 7-9.

• Figure this: For the first time in his career, Dontrelle Willis lasted more than three innings without recording a strikeout.

• Yard work: J.J. Hardy's solo shot in the seventh gives him 16 homers on the year and leaves him second in the NL to teammate Prince Fielder with 19.

• Fantasy stat: Closer Francisco Cordero earned his MLB-leading 21st save of the season.

-- news services

Brewers 3, Marlins 0

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Ben Sheets considers the past several weeks for the Milwaukee Brewers a missed opportunity -- a failed chance to take an even bigger lead in the National League Central.

Sheets pitched six shutout innings and the Brewers won their first series in nearly a month with a 3-0 victory over the Florida Marlins on Sunday.

The win kept Milwaukee 6 1/2 games up on the second-place St. Louis Cardinals.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," Sheets said. "It's kind of frustrating that we didn't gain any [ground]. But we're fine."

Sheets (6-3) struck out seven and walked one to move to 5-1 in his past seven starts.

He beat Dontrelle Willis (7-4), who walked a career-high six and struck out none in six innings. It was the first time Willis has pitched more than three innings in his career without a strikeout.

Francisco Cordero had a perfect ninth for his 21st save.

The victory was Milwaukee's third in four games against Florida. The Brewers last won a series when they swept the Washington Nationals May 7-9 in Milwaukee, giving them a 24-10 record. Since then, Milwaukee has gone 8-15.

"It was just a matter of time before we won a series again," Brewers manager Ned Yost said.

Willis was vying to tie Cole Hamels for the National League lead in wins. But he gave up seven hits and struggled with his control.

Milwaukee battered Willis early, scoring once in the first on an RBI single by Prince Fielder and again in the third on an RBI single by Johnny Estrada.

It could have been worse. The Brewers had four hits in the third, including a leadoff double by rookie Ryan Braun, but Tony Graffanino grounded into a double play to end the inning. And in the fourth, with Fielder batting, J.J. Hardy was called out for running out of the baseline after a pickoff attempt.

"Dontrelle was good," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It was just a bunch of ground balls that got through holes. He wasn't at his best, but he battled to pitch six strong innings."

Hardy had an opposite-field homer in the eighth, his 16th, to make it 3-0. He said it is only his second home run to right field of the 30 in his major league career.

"It still surprises me," he said. "I don't know how that happened."

Yost said Sheets had one of his best curveballs of the season but told him he was tiring quickly in the sixth inning, when he had thrown 99 pitches.

Sheets said the conditions inside Miller Park -- which Yost compared to a sauna -- were a factor.

Because of severe weather in the area, which included a tornado warning just north of Milwaukee County, the outfield stadium panels were closed in the third. Often that makes it hotter and more humid inside the stadium.

"I was gassed," Sheets said. "I can probably count on one hand the times I have been gassed, and today was one of them."

Still, Gonzalez was impressed.

"I don't think I should ever be in the ballpark when he pitches, because I don't think I've ever seen him pitch badly," he said. As a third-base coach with Atlanta, Gonzalez watched Sheets strike out 18 Braves in 2005. "When he pitches, I should take that day off."

Willis entered the game 5-1 on the road this season. He has walked five batters three times in his career. The last time came May 9 in a 5-2 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"We were able to make some adjustments within the innings to get some more ground balls," Willis said. "I didn't feel like I was losing any confidence, I just felt like if I could make a pitch, I could get out of it."

And he almost did.

"I know he has thrown the ball a lot better than that," Hardy said. "We came out there with a pretty good approach, and the fact that he wasn't at the top of his game helped."

Game notes
Marlins RHP Sergio Mitre (right hamstring cramping) has been pushed back a day in the rotation and will start Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves. RHP Web Obermueller will pitch on three days' rest and open the series against Braves RHP Tim Hudson, who is 5-0 in nine career starts against Florida. ... Milwaukee moved to 26-13 against teams currently under .500. The Brewers are 6-12 against teams over .500. ... The Brewers are a National League-best 21-10 at home. ... The Brewers recorded their second straight sellout Sunday, which featured a Prince Fielder bobblehead doll giveaway. It was their 10th sellout this season.