Sheets baffles Dodgers

first_imgMILWAUKEE – In the end, it didn’t matter that Derek Lowe couldn’t find his command. Or that Luis Gonzalez couldn’t find a pivotal fly ball in the fourth inning after it disappeared into a background of too many windows and too much sunshine. Or that Juan Pierre and Andre Ethier couldn’t find their footing in an outfield that was somehow too wet, even though the retractable roof was closed. In the end, all that mattered was Ben Sheets. And the fact the Dodgers, who took a 7-1, season-opening thumping from the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 45,341 on Monday at Miller Park, couldn’t find a way to hit anything the veteran right- hander and former U.S. Olympic hero threw at them. Named the Brewers’ Opening Day starter over two other candidates who might have been more deserving, Sheets rose to the occasion like he hadn’t since that day seven summers ago in Sydney, Australia, when his three-hit shutout lifted the Tommy Lasorda-managed Americans over heavily favored Cuba in the gold-medal game. Sheets stymied the Dodgers, allowing just two hits. He responded to Jeff Kent’s second-inning home run by retiring the next 22 batters in succession. A power pitcher who struck out 116 batters in 106 innings during an injury-shortened 2006 season, Sheets did it this time by getting the Dodgers to repeatedly roll over or pop up. He recorded 16 fly-ball outs, eight by groundball and only three by strikeout. And thanks to the fact the Dodgers chose – wisely, by some accounts – not to work many counts against him, it was all over in a merciful 2 hours, 11 minutes and 104 pitches. “His fastball was in the mid-90s, and he kept it belt-high and made us pop a lot of pitches up,” said Kent, who popped one just high enough to get it over the center-field wall in his first at-bat of the season. “He was overthrowing his curveball, which made it harder to pick up. He got some pitches called for strikes early that were so-so. But mostly, he just never let up. “When you face a guy throwing that good, you have to be ready to hit a pitch, because you’re not going to get that many.” Brady Clark, who entered the game as part of a fifth-inning double-switch, finally broke the Dodgers’ drought with a one-out double in the ninth. Sheets then retired Pierre and Russell Martin on consecutive fly balls to right field to end the game. Pierre and Martin were the only two hitters to whom Sheets pitched out of the stretch all day. “We were just never able to slow him down,” Pierre said. “The way to slow a guy like that down is to get hits and make him throw out of the stretch. By the time we did that, it was the ninth inning, and it was too late.” Kent worked Sheets for a 3-1 count, then hit a fat fastball on such a high arc that it eventually carried over the wall, just out of reach of a leaping Bill Hall. That tied the score 1-1, but it only gave the Dodgers false hope on a day when Sheets was virtually unhittable. “Once (Kent) got me, I think that helped me kind of settle down,” Sheets said. “That lineup over there is very tough and very talented. I think that’s what helped. I had to stay focused throughout that whole lineup. “Sometimes, when the lineup isn’t that good, you might lose a little focus. You don’t lose it with them guys. They can hit.” They just couldn’t hit Sheets. “We knew he was tough, but we thought all day that we would get to him if we could get him into the stretch, and that never happened,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “There were some quick innings, but we knew this guy wasn’t going to walk anybody. You better get after the first (pitch) you can get. We didn’t chase many bad pitches.” The Dodgers lost their fourth consecutive season opener, the past three of which have come with Lowe on the hill. In those starts, the veteran right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA. If there was an unsung hero for the Dodgers, it was lefty Mark Hendrickson. The reluctant reliever took over for Lowe to start the fifth inning. Because of the double-switch and the fact Sheets was so effective, Hendrickson’s spot in the order didn’t come up until he had completed three innings. That saved Little from having to go deep into his bullpen. (818) 713-3675160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

Manchester United eyeing shock last-gasp raid on Arsenal

first_img Mathieu Debuchy 1 Manchester United want to sign Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy on loan, according to reports in France.The 30-year-old is itching for a move away from the Emirates in search of first-team football ahead of Euro 2016 this summer.Clubs in France have shown an interest, with the right-back’s former side Lille particularly keen.However, according to L’Equipe, Manchester United have now enquired about Debuchy’s availability.Louis van Gaal wants to bring the France international to Old Trafford on loan until the summer to provide competition for Matteo Darmian.Arsenal, however, are said to prefer a permanent deal for Debuchy if they were to let him go to United.last_img read more