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SAN DIEGO -- Jake Peavy blinked first, but Ben Sheets blinked back.
The Brewers scratched out a go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning against Peavy before the Padres answered back, scoring three runs off Sheets in the bottom of the frame for a 3-2 win that dashed Milwaukee's bid for a series sweep and a ninth consecutive win on Thursday at PETCO Park.
Mike Cameron drove in both Brewers runs with a single against Peavy in the seventh inning and a home run in the ninth off Trevor Hoffman, who notched his 26th save this season and the 550th of his career.
"It ended up being a duel the whole way," said Sheets (11-6), who would have preferred otherwise. "I would rather a cushion, to tell you the truth. When you have a cushion, it's a lot easier to pitch. You're not on pins and needles, trying to prevent them from scoring."
Leave it to everyone else, including the 30,145 fans who enjoyed a sun-splashed afternoon, to appreciate the quality pitching on both sides. It was a matchup of the National League's last two All-Star starters.
"There's a lot of competition going on between those two out there," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "They both know that they are elite pitchers, and they are trying to out-do each other."
Even without his good curveball and working almost exclusively with fastballs, Sheets had allowed only a second-inning single through six scoreless frames. Peavy (9-8) was just as good, allowing only a walk and a pair of singles through his first six innings. The game was barely 90 minutes old when the Brewers batted in the top of the seventh inning.
That's when the offenses showed up. Brewers third baseman Bill Hall walked with one out, then took second when Peavy's pickoff attempt sailed past first base. Hall scored when Cameron singled to left fielder Chase Headley, whose throw home came just as Hall took a wide slide and touched the plate.
The way Peavy and Sheets were working, a 1-0 lead felt to Cameron like it might be enough.
"It was a relief," Cameron said. "You knew it was going to be like that. One or two was going to be the difference in the game. It was a day where you had to find ways to get it done. We got one and thought we were going to be all right, and they found a way to get to Ben Sheets."
Sheets had allowed multiple baserunners only once in the first six innings, when he muffed a feed from first baseman Prince Fielder for an error that allowed Adrian Gonzalez to reach in the second inning. Two batters later, Headley singled with one out, but Sheets induced a pair of flyouts to preserve the scoreless tie.
He was not as lucky in the seventh.
"To not let people score runs is a tough thing to do," said Sheets, who was coming off a five-hit shutout of the Nationals. "You give somebody enough at-bats, they are probably going to score some runs eventually."
Kevin Kouzmanoff led off with a single and Headley doubled for the game's first extra-base hit before Tadahito Iguchi deposited a bloop single into center field that knotted the game at 1. Headley moved to third on Iguchi's hit and scored the go-ahead run when pinch-hitter Brian Myrow hit a sacrifice fly to left fielder Laynce Nix, who made a diving catch.
Sheets retired another pinch-hitter, Edgar Gonzalez, on a long flyout to straightaway center field, but he was chased from the game when Jody Gerut hit an RBI single to right field for a 3-1 lead. That hit scored Iguchi, who moved from first to second when a curveball in the dirt spun away from catcher Jason Kendall, then to third on Gonzalez's deep fly.
"I have to come up with that," a disappointed Kendall said. "If I do, we're still out there playing."
According to MLB.com's unofficial pitch tracker, 77 of Sheets' 110 pitches were fastballs, or 70 percent. Over his final 1 2/3 innings, 24 of Sheets' 30 pitches registered as fastballs.
"It was not good," Sheets said of his curve. "But, you still have to throw it. It just wasn't a good pitch today."
The Brewers escaped further damage thanks to a close play at the plate. With runners at first and third, reliever Brian Shouse's pitch got away from Kendall as Gerut scampered home. Kendall's shovel pass got away from Shouse, as runner and pitcher slid home at the same time, but Shouse alertly chased down Gerut as he headed for the dugout and tagged him for the inning's final out.
"It happened quick," Shouse said. "I felt like I tried to block the plate so he couldn't get his feet in there at all. I thought I held onto the ball, and then I looked up and I'm seeing the ball pop out. 'Kid,' Kendall was saying, 'go tag him!' That's when I realized he must not have touched the plate. ...
"Believe it or not, as I was running to home plate my thought process was, 'I can't let this guy score.'"
Padres manager Bud Black objected to the call from plate umpire Mike Everitt to no avail. The play loomed a bit larger when Cameron hit his 20th home run of the season off Hoffman in the ninth inning to cut the Brewers' deficit to one run.
Hoffman shut down the rally right there. He retired Kendall on a flyout and pinch-hitter Gabe Kapler on a groundout to shortstop.