Brewers' bats come alive against Cubs
Offense smacks season-high 17 hits in victory
CHICAGO -- The Brewers were finally at full strength on Tuesday, and they celebrated at the Cubs' expense.Right-hander Ben Sheets returned from an arm injury and won without his best stuff, and outfielder Mike Cameron returned from his suspension with two runs scored and two driven-in, leading the fully-stocked Brewers to a 10-7 win over the Cubs on a frigid Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. "When you go out and score 10 runs in that cold weather, it says a lot," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, one of four Brewers with three hits in the game -- a group that included Cameron. The Brewers set a season high with 17 hits, 10 of them coming against Cubs starter Jason Marquis (1-1). The offense was a boost to Sheets (4-0), who had skipped his last start because of stiffness in his triceps and managed to last five innings, holding the Cubs to three earned runs and four hits despite issuing a career-high seven walks. Cameron helped give Sheets an early cushion. Coming off a 25-game suspension, Cameron doubled the third pitch he saw from Marquis high off the left-field wall and finished 3-for-4 with a walk. "I had a little bit of the jitters until I got in the box," Cameron said. "After that, everything goes into cruise control." Cameron, Hardy, Bill Hall and Corey Hart had three hits apiece, and Cameron, Hall and Prince Fielder drove in two runs apiece as the Brewers beat the Cubs for the third time in four meetings this season. "It was nice to have 'Cam' back," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "The offense broke out and he was a big part of it. I think we were ready to [break out]. We had a good frame of mind coming into this game. I think the off-day [Monday] relaxed everybody and refreshed everybody." Getting a healthy Sheets back into an every-five-day routine would surely add to that state of relaxation. He began feeling tightness in his triceps during a April 12 win in New York, then had to leave an April 18 start at Cincinnati with the ailment. The Brewers decided to bump Sheets from one start to give the arm time to heal. Head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger checked in through Tuesday's grinder and reported to Yost. "No stiffness, no tightness, no pain," Yost said. "Just a little, 'heavy,' and that's probably from missing a turn and [from the] cold weather. We were checking with him every inning. Roger [Caplinger, the Brewers' head trainer] had strict orders to talk to him, and we talked before the game to make sure that we were on the same page in terms of communicating how we feel." Sheets was admittedly off throughout his five-inning stint and rarely topped 90-91 mph with a fastball that typically reaches 93-94 mph when he finds a groove. He limited the damage by allowing only three Cubs hits, and though the walks surely contributed to at least two of the three earned runs against Sheets, none of the batters who worked free passes managed to score. The Cubs also scored an unearned run in the third inning after errors by first baseman Fielder and third baseman Hall, who atoned at the plate. Those miscues forced Sheets to throw 12 extra pitches in the inning, one of three frames in which Sheets walked a pair of batters. Was he rusty? "Are you kidding me?" Sheets asked. "Have you ever seen me walk that many batters, throw that many balls? Yeah, I felt rusty. I felt real rusty. ... I would say that's as bad as I've pitched, location-wise, probably ever." The Brewers' offense helped cover Sheets' wildness. They had managed only one hit in their last 30 at-bats with runners in scoring position entering the third inning of Tuesday's game, but then went 5-for-12 the rest of the way. "We've got a good team. They back you up," Sheets said. "And we made some good pitches when we had to. Jason [Kendall, the catcher], I can't say enough about the job he did back there. He didn't give up on any of my pitches. He kept confidence in me, even if I didn't have it." Sheets dodged questions about how his arm felt by saying twice that he felt "no pain at all." "I don't know what was bothering me. Something was bothering me," Sheets said. "Maybe it was my arm slot not being right. I don't know. It was kind of weird. ... I've pitched plenty of games at 90-91 [mph]. For me, the most frustrating thing was not being able to throw a strike." He added: "I threw enough." And the Brewers hit just enough. Ryan Braun's RBI groundout in the sixth inning snapped a 4-4 tie, and the Brewers tacked on three more runs in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk by Kendall and a two-run, bloop single by Cameron that gave Milwaukee a 9-4 lead. Cameron's third hit loomed large when Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot ripped a three-run double off Salomon Torres in the bottom of the seventh inning. Torres surrendered four hits in the inning but two of them never left the infield, and Matt Murton's broken-bat single that loaded the bases barely made it past the pitcher's mound. Brewers closer Eric Gagne pitched the bottom of the ninth for his eighth save, atoning for an Opening Day appearance against the Cubs in which he surrendered a game-tying, three-run home run to Kosuke Fukudome.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.