Bottom falls out in ninth for Brewers
Sheets dominant through seven, Cordero can't notch save
ARLINGTON -- It was certainly not the script Francisco Cordero had written for his return to the mound at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Handed the ball with a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Cordero would have been a safe bet to make simple work of Texas and give Milwaukee a much-needed victory. After recording two quick outs, many of the remaining home fans were headed toward the exits when the Rangers reeled off four consecutive RBI singles to improbably stun the Brewers, 4-3.It was Cordero's first blown save in 23 opportunities this year. The stretch of perfection is over, and it couldn't have come in a more inopportune location. Cordero was acquired in a trade with Texas last July after losing his closing job with the Rangers a few months earlier. Milwaukee seemed to get the better end of the deal, considering that Cordero came into Saturday night's game with a stellar ERA of just 0.36. Following the game, Cordero wasn't concerned about the fact that his first meltdown of the season came in the ballpark he called home for almost seven years. "Every time you lose it's bad," he said. "It doesn't matter when or how it came, it's bad. I feel really bad because Ben [Sheets] threw an unbelievable game." Sheets was indeed impressive. He entered the contest just 10 strikeouts shy of 1,000 for his career. He didn't reach that milestone, but he did strap Rangers hitters most of the night, tossing seven shutout innings, extending his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 18. "I felt all right," he said afterward. "I felt like I was in control." Sheets did fan six batters on the night, bringing his career total to 996. He also walked two while surrendering five hits before giving way to Derrick Turnbow, who worked a flawless eighth inning to set the stage for Cordero. Cordero struck out Frank Catalanotto on three pitches, and then threw out Ian Kinsler on a dribbler back to the mound. Brad Wilkerson singled to left field and advanced to second on defensive indifference with Ramon Vazquez at the plate. Vazquez drew a walk, bringing catcher Gerald Laird into the batter's box. The rally was on.
Laird singled home Wilkerson and moved Vazquez to third. Kenny Lofton followed with a single toward first base that Prince Fielder made a nice play to get to. However, his momentum was carrying him toward second base and Fielder couldn't get up in time to throw out the speedy Lofton. Vazquez crossed home plate and pulled the Rangers within one.Marlon Byrd ripped a ground ball to center field to tie the game when Laird came home, and Michael Young completed the comeback with a single to right field that allowed Lofton to come around from second. "This is not the first time it's happened," Cordero said of his blown save. "And I believe this is not the last time it will happen either. I believe I made pretty good pitches that they hit." Sheets was easily good enough to deserve a win, and probably expected to pick up his seventh victory of the season when Cordero was summoned from the bullpen. Even after watching the disaster unfold, Sheets wouldn't have done anything differently. "He's been the best in baseball," Sheets said of his teammate. "You can't ask for a better scenario. We'd do it again all over again the same way. It's not like anybody in the country would do it any different than the way we did it. We set it up like we wanted to." The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning when Craig Counsell doubled home Tony Graffanino. Milwaukee looked to add some insurance runs in the ninth when Geoff Jenkins and Graffanino added RBIs to push the lead to 3-0. Milwaukee has now lost 19 of its last 28 games, but manager Ned Yost is far from worried. "It's not devastating," he said. "We're not dead. It's a ballgame. We'll be back tomorrow. It's definitely tough, but it's not devastating." Yost also chose to talk of Cordero's success this year rather than of his only flaw on the season. "He's been some kind of good for us," the manager said of his closer. "He's been perfect. You knew he was going to have one of these nights, you just hope you can keep it away as long as you could. I'll take his ratio any time."
Shawn Smajstrla is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.