Sheets injured in Brewers' loss
Blister on pitching hand leaves ace's next start in question
LOS ANGELES -- Just like every Dodgers win here, Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." blasted out of the County Stadium-style speaker tower in center field at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
Odds are, you will not find that song on Ben Sheets' iPod. He could do without the Brewers' annual trip to Southern California.
Sheets' Dodger Stadium jinx, not to mention the Dodgers themselves, got the better of the Brewers ace once again. He was forced out after 6 1/3 innings with a blister on his middle finger and suffered a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers in front of 33,552.
"I don't know what it is here," said Sheets (4-3), who was pitching well before the blister forced him from the game with one out in the seventh inning. "But I can think of a lot worse things that could have happened."
Worse things have happened to Sheets at Dodger Stadium, and not just because he is 2-5 here in eight starts. He was laid up on a clubhouse couch in 2004 with dizziness that later was diagnosed as vestibular neuritis, a rare ailment that dogged him for two years but that Sheets has since learned to manage. Last season, Sheets was scratched from a Dodger Stadium start with a sore shoulder and went on to miss more than two months.
Sheets suffered from blisters in high school and college that he treated with pickle juice, but never had trouble after he was drafted by the Brewers in 1999. Now he'll get better treatment from the team's Major League medical staff, and an off-day Thursday gives the team some flexibility regarding the right-hander's next scheduled start.
"I would guess it's a 6-10 [day] thing," Sheets said. "But that's just me speaking, so it don't mean a thing."
Sheets is penciled to make his next start on Monday against Atlanta on five days' rest. The Brewers could have Wednesday starter Chris Capuano take that turn on his regular four days of rest, giving Sheets an extra day to get treatment. Manager Ned Yost said the team hoped to know more about Sheets' finger on Wednesday.
Russell Martin hit a go-ahead two-run home run off Sheets in the fourth inning and L.A. left-hander Randy Wolf (5-4) pitched seven innings for his third straight win. After winning nine of their first 12 games against left-handed starting pitchers, the Brewers have dropped their last four.
"We just came up short offensively," said Brewers catcher Johnny Estrada, whose second-inning error made the Dodgers' first run unearned against Sheets. "We need to do a better job of being consistent with runners in scoring position."
They have been extremely inconsistent in that department of late. The Brewers went 1-for-5 in on Tuesday after going 9-for-19 (.474) in wins Sunday and Monday over the Twins and Dodgers. They were just 3-for-26 (.083) in the clutch in the seven games before that.
"We had first and third twice and didn't drive in a run," Estrada said. "It was a combination of things. Any time you lose a one-run game, you're going to look back on things and wonder how many spots you could have given up one fewer run or where you could have scored another."
Estrada grounded out to strand runners at first and third in the first inning, and Bill Hall grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners at first and third in the third. Hall, back in the cleanup hole after batting seventh in Monday's win, finished 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored.
Entering the game, Hall was one of four National Leaguers with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title who had not grounded into a double play this season.
Still, Sheets kept the Brewers in the game until he felt the blister "bubbling up" between the sixth and seventh innings.
"But you can't pull yourself because of something you think is coming," he said. "You kind of need proof."
That proof unfortunately arrived a few pitches into the seventh. Sheets retired Luis Gonzalez leading off the inning, but Yost noticed Sheets "nibbling" on his finger and joined head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger in a conference on the mound. Sheets was replaced by Chris Spurling, who held the Dodgers hitless over the final 1 2/3 innings.
The Brewers played sloppy defense early in the game. First baseman Prince Fielder dropped a foul popup in the first inning that didn't hurt Sheets and the Brewers, but Estrada dropped another in the second inning, and it did. Estrada's error, which came with Gonzalez at the plate and Martin at second base, extended the at-bat for Gonzalez's RBI single.
"We didn't give them a run," Yost said. "They took advantage of an opportunity that we provided for them. Gonzalez got a hit. I don't really look at it as, 'We gave them a run.'"
Estrada took responsibility for that run.
"I should have caught it. There's no excuse," said Estrada, who partially atoned with a two-our RBI double in the sixth inning. "I couldn't get a very good read on it."
The Brewers tied the game at 1 on Fielder's RBI single in the third inning, but the Dodgers answered in the fourth, when Jeff Kent hit a leadoff double and Martin pounced on an 0-and-1 fastball for a two-run home run. It was a mistake pitch by Sheets, who left a fastball up in the strike zone to the dangerous Dodgers catcher.
Wolf limited the Brewers to three hits and two runs in seven innings. He struck out four and walked three.
"He pitched better than I did," Sheets said. "He gave up two, I gave up three."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.