Sheets won his third straight decision, tossing 6 2/3 effective innings, and
hit a three-run homer as the Brewers posted a 6-3 victory over the
New York Mets
The 25-year-old Sheets, who won 11 games as a rookie in 2001, lost 16 of 27 decisions last season. But he has been almost everything Milwaukee could hope for this season, anchoring an erratic staff and putting last year's woes behind him.
Allowing three runs and seven hits, Sheets (10-7) matched the longest winning streak of his career, which came midway through his rookie campaign. He did not walk a batter, struck out two and improved to 4-1 this month.
Already second in the National League in innings pitched, Sheets has given the last-place Brewers something to build around. He has had quality starts in 14 of 24 outings and Milwaukee has won seven of his last eight assignments.
"He is acting like an ace," Brewers manager
said. "He went out there today without great stuff, but he battled. It is especially important on our staff because at any point in the season, we have had maybe two consistent starting pitchers, and one of them has always been Benny. It provides a great amount of stability for our team to know that when Benny goes out, we have a great chance to win the ballgame."
"Only time will tell," Sheets said of his ace status. "You can talk about what you are going to do, but it's harder to go out and do it. Things are going well right now. I am just trying to ride the wave as long as I can."
Sheets tried to put the differences between 2002 and 2003 in perspective.
"I was not disappointed with last year, by any means," he said. "Last year was consistent, but it was consistently average. Last year, I finished off kind of strong and then I started off kind of weak this year. Things are starting to go the way I envisioned. They are playing great defense and we are getting some big hits that make you look better."
Valerio De Los Santos escaped a jam in the seventh before
cruised through the eighth and ninth to notch his 18th save in 25 opportunities.
Sheets was staked to a 4-2 lead in the fourth on Clayton's three-run shot off Mets reliever
also homered for the Brewers, who have won five of seven meetings with New York this season - including all four games at Shea Stadium. Prior to this season, Milwaukee was just 3-16 on the road vs. the Mets.
New York starter
was forced to leave after just one inning. The veteran lefthander, who has battled minor injuries this season, suffered a right rib cage strain in the top of the first and is considered day-to-day.
"I knew after a pitch or two that it was going to bother me," Glavine said. "I have had this before and the last time, I had a cortisone shot and a couple of treatments and it seemed to respond. The doctor is not opposed to a cortisone shot this time around, but we are going to wait until tomorrow, see what we are dealing with then."
Wheeler was called upon and allowed four runs and four hits in four innings, including the homers to Clayton and Osik. Wheeler's longest previous outing of 2003 had been a three-inning stint against Florida on June 18.
"I felt pretty strong (in the fifth inning)," Wheeler said. "I just kind of left a pitch up, rushed it and he hit it. In that situation, I'm looking to get a ground ball. That's the best possible thing, and I have confidence in my slider. But it just stayed up and didn't slide much, and he got it."
"Hitting eighth, I can't expect to see too many good pitches," Clayton said. "I was hoping to make solid, good contact with the ball, and I did."
The Brewers seized a 1-0 lead in the second on Osik's second homer of the season, a blast off the left field foul pole.
New York forged ahead in the bottom of the second, stringing together three straight hits.
continued his hot hitting with a single and
knotted the game with an RBI double into the right field corner.
, who leads all National League rookies with 49 RBI, singled to right to give the Mets the lead.
Wheeler took that 2-1 edge into the fourth and got
to open the inning. But
and Osik singled and Clayton crushed the first pitch of his at-bat over the left field wall for his 10th homer.
"Royce has been swinging the bat better but has had little to show for it," Yost said. "He's finally getting some hits to drop in."
"I put in a lot of work before the break and have been hitting into a ton of tough luck," Clayton said. "I started upswinging and even when I was hitting the ball hard, I was having nothing to show for it. But as a guy who has been around a bit, I know that something good had to be coming."
New York closed within 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth on a double by
and a two-out infield hit by Wigginton.
Wigginton went 3-for-3 against Sheets and is 8-for-9 in his career against the Brewers' righthander.
"I treat him like any other pitcher," Wigginton said. "I just look for something to hit, it is just the way it has worked out. Numbers against a particular pitcher don't interest me at all."
took over for Wheeler in the sixth and held Milwaukee in check over the next two innings.
The Mets mounted a rally in the seventh as Wigginton singled with one out and Sheets booted
's bouncer near the mound. A flyout to right moved Wigginton to third and Yost turned to the lefthanded De Los Santos, who struck out pinch hitter
on three pitches.
"Three tough off-speed pitches in a row," Clark said. "That wasn't what I was planning on seeing."
, a switch hitter, entered the game hitting .288 against lefthanders as opposed to .191 vs. righthanders.
"Benny was coming off a cold and it was a good cold, and he was at the 100-pitch mark and I liked the matchup," Yost explained. "Benny did his job and De Los Santos was going to come in the next inning anyway, so I decided not to play with fire and made the move."
DeJean retired the side in order in the eighth and Mets reliever
struggled in the ninth, allowing a two-out, two-run double to