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Sheets, Brewers fall into NL wild-card tie after loss to Cubs

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MILWAUKEE -- Given the wild fluctuations of the Milwaukee Brewers' season, it's only natural that the final push for their first playoff appearance since 1982 would come down to game No. 162.

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But even as they slipped back into a tie for the NL wild card with Saturday's 7-3 loss to a Chicago Cubs team resting most of its starters, the Brewers took comfort in the fact that they get to hand the ball to ace CC Sabathia on Sunday.

"It's been up and down," Sabathia said. "But we've hung in there, and now we're in a position to win a game and we'll be in a good spot."

Milwaukee must turn to Sabathia on three days' rest after the other power pitcher who was expected to give them perhaps the fiercest 1-2 starting pitching combination in baseball, Ben Sheets, was roughed up in his return from an injury.

The oft-injured Sheets (13-9) tried to put aside nagging elbow soreness to make his first start since Sept. 17, but gave up four runs in only 2 1/3 innings against a makeshift Cubs lineup.

"That's all I had," Sheets said. "I got a broke arm, I got a broke arm. It's not really broke, but it's all I had for the year. Things definitely don't look like they're on my side."

Beyond Sheets' struggles, Milwaukee's lineup couldn't manage much of anything against Ted Lilly (17-9), who held the Brewers hitless until Ryan Braun led off the seventh with a double.

Now the Brewers go into the final game of the season tied with the New York Mets for the wild card.

"And then there was one," interim manager Dale Sveum said.

Sabathia was expected to face Carlos Zambrano on Sunday, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella called an audible and now will start right-hander Angel Guzman. After resting several regulars Saturday, Piniella said he would play his normal lineup Sunday.

The Cubs beat Sabathia at Wrigley Field on Sept. 16.

"The young guy can pitch, there's no question about it," Piniella said. "At the same time, we've had some nice swings on him. He's a top-notch pitcher."

Milwaukee entered Saturday with a one-game lead on the Mets and a chance to clinch its first playoff appearance since 1982 with a win and a Mets loss. But Johan Santana pitched New York past Florida 2-0, guaranteeing that the wild-card race would go down to the final day of the regular season.

If the Brewers and Mets remain even after Sunday, they would play a one-game tiebreaker Monday in New York.

The Brewers led the wild-card race by 5½ games coming into September, lost it with a prolonged skid, then reclaimed it this week with a five-game winning streak. Now they're tied with one game to go.

"It's obviously been a roller-coaster ride," Sveum said. "But the fact of the matter is, when we started, if somebody said, 'You're tied after game 161, would you take that in spring training?' Thirty teams would have done that."

The Brewers nearly pulled off a comeback Saturday.

Trailing 4-1 going into the eighth, Milwaukee rallied for two runs but left the bases loaded. Kosuke Fukudome then hit a two-run homer off Brewers reliever Salomon Torres in the ninth, and Mike Fontenot added an RBI single off Todd Coffey to extend the Cubs' lead to 7-3.

For Lilly, it was the second time this month that he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Miller Park.

The Brewers' home stadium was the scene of Zambrano's no-hitter against the Houston Astros in a Sept. 14 game that was moved to Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike. Lilly nearly repeated Zambrano's feat the next day, taking a no-hitter into the seventh.

Sheets gave up a two-run homer with two outs in the first to Daryle Ward, who said Sheets' fastball didn't have as much "steam" on it as it usually does.

"You've got to take advantage of it when he's out there and he's not 100 percent," Ward said. "When he is, he's a tough pitcher to hit off of."

Sheets then loaded the bases with one out in the third and allowed a two-run single to Fontenot that put Chicago ahead 4-0.

Now the Brewers must rally behind Sabathia.

"It means everything for the season," Sveum said. "You approach it like it's the seventh game of the World Series. You're hanging by a thread, and you've got to win."

Notes

  • Fielder's bloop single in the seventh extended his hitting streak to 17 games, tying a career high.
  • Brewers INF Russell Branyan left in the eighth with lower back tightness.
  • Piniella said Zambrano would throw on the side Sunday instead of starting.
 
Copyright 2014 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.
 
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Cory Hart can't bring back this homer in a loss that costs the Brewers their slim wild-card lead.  (AP)
Cory Hart can't bring back this homer in a loss that costs the Brewers their slim wild-card lead. (AP)

Players of the Game
Chicago

M. Fontenot
AB 5
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 3
Chicago

T. Lilly
IP 6.0
H 2
ER 1
BB 1
K 4
 

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Chicago Cubs
Kosuke Fukudome, RF4112103 .257
Ronny Cedeno, SS5320001 .272
    Kerry Wood, P0000000 .000
Micah Hoffpauir, 1B4100123 .357
Daryle Ward, LF4112023 .216
    Felix Pie, CF0000100 .241
Reed Johnson, CF-LF4010102 .306
Mike Fontenot, 2B5023011 .305
Casey McGehee, 3B5000015 .174
Henry Blanco, C4020001 .297
Ted Lilly, P3010003 .177
    Carlos Marmol, P0000000 .000
    Jason Marquis, P0000000 .203
    Neal Cotts, P0000000 .000
    Michael Wuertz, P0000000 .000
   a- Ryan Theriot, PH-SS1110000 .306
Totals39711746  
a-singled for Wuertz in the 9th
Batting
2B - Ted Lilly (2, Sheets)
HR - Kosuke Fukudome (10, Torres), Daryle Ward (4, Sheets)
RBI - Kosuke Fukudome 2 (58), Daryle Ward 2 (17), Mike Fontenot 3 (40)
2-OUT RBI - Daryle Ward 2 (4), Mike Fontenot (14)
SB - Kosuke Fukudome (12, 2nd base off Bush/Kendall)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
E - Ronny Cedeno (5, Throwing)
Chicago Cubs
Ted Lilly (W,17-9) 6211140 4.09
Carlos Marmol (H,30) 1000000 2.68
Jason Marquis (H,1) 0.1222100 4.53
Neal Cotts0100000 4.41
Michael Wuertz (H,3) 0.2000000 3.68
Kerry Wood 1000010 3.26
HBP - Braun (by Jason Marquis)
Pitches-Strikes - Ted Lilly 80-53, Carlos Marmol 12-9, Jason Marquis 21-13, Neal Cotts 1-1, Kerry Wood 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ted Lilly 8-7, Jason Marquis 1-0, Michael Wuertz 2-0, Kerry Wood 1-1
Batters Faced - Ted Lilly 22, Carlos Marmol 3, Jason Marquis 5, Neal Cotts 1, Michael Wuertz 2, Kerry Wood 3
Milwaukee Brewers
Mike Cameron, CF3110100 .241
Bill Hall, 3B3000021 .225
   a- Craig Counsell, PH-3B1011000 .228
Ryan Braun, LF3110010 .285
Prince Fielder, 1B4021010 .277
J.J. Hardy, SS3001003 .284
Corey Hart, RF4000005 .269
Rickie Weeks, 2B4000012 .234
Jason Kendall, C4000000 .248
Ben Sheets, P0000000 .075
    Mark DiFelice, P0000000 .000
   b- Joe Dillon, PH1000000 .213
    Dave Bush, P0000000 .088
   c- Ray Durham, PH1000000 .290
    Manny Parra, P0000000 .226
   d- Russell Branyan, PH0000100 .250
    Alcides Escobar, PR0100000 .500
    Salomon Torres, P0000000 .000
    Mitch Stetter, P0000000 .000
    Todd Coffey, P0000000 .000
   e- Mike Lamb, PH1000000 .235
Totals3235325  
a-singled for Hall in the 8th
b-popped out for DiFelice in the 3rd
c-grounded out for Bush in the 6th
d-walked for Parra in the 8th
e-flied out for Coffey in the 9th
Batting
2B - Ryan Braun (39, Lilly)
SF - J.J. Hardy (2)
RBI - Craig Counsell (13), Prince Fielder (102), J.J. Hardy (74)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Hardy-Weeks-Fielder
E - Bill Hall (19, Throwing), Rickie Weeks (15, Misplayed grounder)
Milwaukee Brewers
Ben Sheets (L,13-9) 2.1543211 3.09
Mark DiFelice 0.2100000 2.84
Dave Bush 3000110 4.18
Manny Parra 2100040 4.39
Salomon Torres0333001 3.49
Mitch Stetter 0.1000100 3.20
Todd Coffey 0.2100000 4.39
WP - Ben Sheets (8)
Pitches-Strikes - Ben Sheets 53-33, Mark DiFelice 7-5, Dave Bush 43-28, Manny Parra 22-19, Salomon Torres 7-6, Mitch Stetter 6-2, Todd Coffey 6-4
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ben Sheets 2-5, Dave Bush 5-3, Manny Parra 2-0, Todd Coffey 1-1
Batters Faced - Ben Sheets 15, Mark DiFelice 3, Dave Bush 10, Manny Parra 7, Salomon Torres 3, Mitch Stetter 2, Todd Coffey 3
Game Information
Attendance - 45288
Game Time - 3:03
Temperature - 77
Umpires - Home - Paul Emmel, First Base - Bill Miller, Second Base - Jerry Meals, Third Base - Gary Darling