Milwaukee at Pittsburgh

W: B. Sheets (1-0) L: O. Perez (0-1)
HR: MIL - J. Cirillo (1)   PIT - None

Brewers 9, Pirates 2 wire reports

PITTSBURGH -- Ned Yost might not make a more surprising move all season than writing Jeff Cirillo's name on his opening-day lineup card. The Milwaukee manager might not make a better one, either.

Cirillo homered and doubled in his return to the Brewers, and Ben Sheets outpitched Oliver Perez in a matchup of two of the NL's best young starters Monday during Milwaukee's 9-2 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Sheets was given little support during a 2004 season that was much better than his 12-14 record indicated -- the Brewers scored one run or fewer in nine of his losses. But he got plenty of help in his fourth consecutive opening day start from Milwaukee's newest regular, shortstop J.J. Hardy, and the oldest, Cirillo.

The 35-year-old Cirillo, one of the most popular players in team history while hitting .307 for Milwaukee from 1994-99, was released by San Diego after 33 games last year and was out of baseball the rest of the season. He later signed a minor-league contract with Milwaukee and wasn't certain of a spot on the 25-man roster until late in camp.

Wes Helms and Russell Branyan were expected to platoon at third, but Yost unexpectedly started Cirillo and was rewarded with a run-scoring double in the second and a solo homer in the fourth.

"If you had told me Feb. 11 that I would be in this position today, starting for the Brewers, I would have told you you were crazy," Cirillo said. "This game's been taken from me once. I didn't think I was going to have a job."

Much less on opening day.

"He deserved to be out there," Yost said. "He does things to help you win. I'm not saying Wes doesn't ... but against a guy like Oliver Perez, we felt Jeff would be a better fit."

Cirillo also made an excellent grab of Jason Bay's line drive that appeared headed for the left-field corner in the fifth, stranding two runners and leaving the Pirates down 4-2.

"That was big," Sheets said. "I left a breaking ball up and I'm lucky he hit a line drive instead of a bomb."

Hardy, known more for his defense than his offense in the minors, added a two-run single for his first career hit in a five-run Brewers sixth. He is the first Milwaukee player since Paul Molitor in 1977 to make his major-league debut on opening day.

"That hit bought Ben Sheets two more innings because if he doesn't drive in anybody there, we're going to have to pinch-hit," Yost said. "That was a huge hit."

Even as each of their teams endured a 12th consecutive losing season last year, Sheets and Perez had a combined 503 strikeouts and a 2.83 ERA. But what looked to be an exceptional pitching matchup was a mismatch.

Perez, who had a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts in his first full major-league season, allowed six runs and five hits, walked three and hit a batter in five-plus ineffective innings. He also threw a run-scoring wild pitch.

"I don't have any excuses," said Perez, who missed part of spring training with shoulder stiffness. "We've got 161 games left, and we just have to forget this day."

Perez was lifted during the sixth, which included Hardy's single and Brady Clark's two-run single, both off reliever Rick White. Shortstop Jack Wilson's throwing error also scored a run.

So much for PNC Park being the Brewers' toughest venue. They were 11-26 there the last four seasons and 2-6 last year, when Sheets was 1-3 against Pittsburgh.

Despite a near-perfect day -- sunny skies and a high of 60 degrees, one day after a spring storm dumped snow on PNC Park -- the crowd of 38,016 didn't have much to cheer during Sheets' effective, if not overpowering, start.

Sheets, previously 4-7 against the Pirates, allowed eight mostly harmless hits and two runs over seven innings, striking out six and walking none. Matt Lawton went 3-for-4 in his Pirates debut and Benito Santiago tripled in his first Pittsburgh at-bat, but the rest of the lineup did little.

"They had a guy named Sheets out there," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He holds a lot of teams down."


  • It was the first NL contest of the year. The Mets-Reds game in Cincinnati started a half-hour later.
  • White wanted to wear jersey No. 00, as he did last season in Cleveland, but he got No. 88, just as in spring training. The Pirates have never had a No. 00 in their history.
  • The sellout crowd was the Pirates' largest on opening day in PNC Park's five-year history.
  • Sheets is 3-0 with one no-decision during his four opening day starts.
  • CF Tike Redman and SS Jack Wilson were the only Pirates who were also in last year's opening day lineup.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Players of the Game

B. Clark
AB 3
R 3
H 1
HR 0

J. Cirillo
AB 3
R 2
H 2
HR 1

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Junior Spivey, 2B5010042 .200
Lyle Overbay, 1B4011121 .250
Carlos Lee, LF4110102 .250
Geoff Jenkins, RF5110012 .200
Jeff Cirillo, 3B3222100 .667
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a-grounded out for Sheets in the 8th
2B - Carlos Lee (1, Vogelsong), Jeff Cirillo (1, Perez)
HR - Jeff Cirillo (1, Perez)
RBI - Brady Clark 2 (2), Lyle Overbay (1), Jeff Cirillo 2 (2), J.J. Hardy 2 (2)
2-OUT RBI - Lyle Overbay (1)
SB - Brady Clark 2 (2, 2nd base off Perez/Santiago, 2nd base off White/Santiago)
Team LOB - 5
Milwaukee Brewers
Ben Sheets (W,1-0) 7822060 2.57
Tommy Phelps 1100010 0.00
Matt Wise 1000000 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Ben Sheets 109-77, Tommy Phelps 19-12, Matt Wise 9-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ben Sheets 2-13, Tommy Phelps 1-1, Matt Wise 1-2
Batters Faced - Ben Sheets 29, Tommy Phelps 4, Matt Wise 3
Pittsburgh Pirates
Matt Lawton, RF4230011 .750
Jack Wilson, SS4011002 .250
Tike Redman, CF4010002 .250
Jason Bay, LF4021003 .500
Daryle Ward, 1B3000021 .000
   a- Craig A. Wilson, PH-1B1000001 .000
Ty Wigginton, 3B4000021 .000
Jose Castillo, 2B3000010 .000
    Ryan Vogelsong, P0000000 .000
   b- Bobby Hill, PH1000000 .000
Benito Santiago, C4020010 .500
Oliver Perez, P2000001 .000
    Rick White, P0000000 .000
    Freddy Sanchez, 2B2000001 .000
a-hit into fielder's choice for Ward in the 8th
b-grounded out for Vogelsong in the 9th
2B - Jack Wilson (1, Sheets)
3B - Benito Santiago (1, Sheets)
RBI - Jack Wilson (1), Jason Bay (1)
2-OUT RBI - Jack Wilson (1), Jason Bay (1)
Team LOB - 7
E - Tike Redman (1, ), Jack Wilson (1, )
Pittsburgh Pirates
Oliver Perez (L,0-1) 5566361 10.80
Rick White 1332110 18.00
Ryan Vogelsong 3100010 0.00
HBP - Clark (by Oliver Perez)
WP - Oliver Perez (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Oliver Perez 92-58, Rick White 28-16, Ryan Vogelsong 45-31
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Oliver Perez 3-6, Rick White 2-0, Ryan Vogelsong 3-5
Batters Faced - Oliver Perez 24, Rick White 7, Ryan Vogelsong 10
Game Information
Attendance - 38016
Game Time - 2:52
Temperature - 57
Umpires - Home - Mike Reilly, First Base - Paul Schrieber, Second Base - Andy Fletcher, Third Base - Chris Guccione