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07/03/07 12:40 AM ET
Sheets named NL Pitcher of the Month
Brewers ace wins five, goes undefeated with 2.16 ERA in June
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
Despite a 10-20 stretch that Milwaukee endured through June 13, ace Ben Sheets made sure the Brewers' division lead stayed comfortable with a dominating June. Sheets led the National League with five wins without a loss during the month while finishing second in both strikeouts (40) and innings pitched (41 2/3 innings) on his way to earning National League Pitcher of the Month honors. He also did not allow an earned run over his first 17 innings pitched, posting a 2.16 ERA overall for the month. With the second-place Cubs gaining ground on Milwaukee's division lead, Sheets ended Chicago's seven-game winning streak June 30 and pushed himself into a tie for the NL lead in victories. He gave up four runs in eight innings while striking out a season-high 11 hitters on the way to victory. After giving up a pair of runs in the first, Sheets allowed just three hits the rest of the game, retiring 15 of 17 at one point. He also set a career high with his sixth straight win. "He was awesome," manager Ned Yost said. "His stuff wasn't exceptionally great, but he got through eight innings and gave the bullpen a chance to regroup. Actually, the seventh and the eighth innings were his two best innings for me. His breaking ball was really snapping. He was spotting his fastball, 92, 93 [mph]." Yost said he slept better the night his club lost its game on June 29 on a walk-off home run knowing his ace would be on the hill the next day. Sheets pitched his second complete game of the season June 19 against the Giants, allowing six hits and striking out four. Yost said his club expects games like that out of Sheets. "You have to really sit back and trust that Benny is your No. 1 starter, that he's your man," Yost said. "You give him a six-run lead, and you have to have some trust that he's not going to give it up. He's going to get you through this game and he's going to pitch nine innings. He did it perfectly." Sheets commanded his fastball well in this efficient performance. "When you locate the heater, you feel a lot better about yourself," Sheets said. "My location was good. I wouldn't say my stuff was outstanding. Location makes your stuff, even if you have lack of stuff, pretty good. I thought we moved the ball well around the plate." Sheets reached 1,000 strikeouts for his career on June 14 against Detroit in a game in which his career-best scoreless streak of 22 2/3 innings was snapped. He pitched six shutout innings on June 3 against the Marlins to seal Milwaukee's first series win in nearly a month. After the game, Yost spoke of his ace in way that would be fitting for the rest of the month. "Benny has always been that guy," Yost said. "He's our No. 1 guy. You know what he's capable of doing when he gets it rolling, and he's rolling." The right-hander will receive a Sharp AQUOS television in honor of his stellar month. Other pitchers receiving votes were Brewers teammate Francisco Cordero, who saved eight games while striking out 15; San Diego's Chris Young, who went 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA and 30 strikeouts; Los Angeles' Brad Penny, who went 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA and 34 strikeouts; and Chicago's Carlos Zambrano, who went 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA and 43 strikeouts.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.