Reds just miss second straight shutout


MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Cincinnati Reds went 150 games between
shutouts, then came within one strike of their second consecutive
whitewash at Miller Park.

Elmer Dessens scattered three hits over six innings and catcher
Jason LaRue homered twice as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Brewers
6-1 Tuesday night to complete a two-game sweep.

The Reds nearly had their first back-to-back shutouts since Aug.
12-13, 2000, before Tyler Houston got the Brewers' fourth hit, an
RBI single off John Riedling.

"The past two nights, our pitching's been lights out,'' LaRue
said. "Main thing the past two nights, our pitchers have done an
excellent job keeping the ball down in the zone.''

And LaRue's done a superb job calling the game.

With LaRue behind the plate Monday night, Chris Reitsma posted
Cincinnati's first shutout since last July 28 with a five-hitter at
Miller Park.

The Brewers haven't been blanked two straight times since Sept.
9-10, 2001.

That's of little consolation to the Brewers, who became the
first NL team to lose 60 games.

"We have just stopped hitting since the All-Star break,''
Brewers manager Jerry Royster said.

Brewers hard-luck right-hander Ben Sheets (4-11) scattered seven
hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out eight. His
only mistake was a 93 mph fastball that LaRue sent over the fence
in left for his third homer of the season in the fifth.

That was the game's only run until the Reds scored five times in
the eighth, three on LaRue's second homer, this one off Jason

Sheets has been on the mound in four of the six games that the
Brewers have been shut out this season, and Milwaukee has scored
just 13 runs in his 11 losses.

"He's had some tough outings,'' Royster said. "He's definitely
been our tough-luck guy.''

LaRue said Sheets is pitching like he's 11-4 instead of the
other way around.

"In my eyes, he's one of the best pitchers in the league,''
LaRue said. "A guy that throws that hard, he's got a great
curveball and a great changeup. He always keeps the hitters
off-balance with his fastball. He throws it so hard, but a lot of
times he'll throw it about belly-high to a hitter. Sometimes it
looks like a good pitch to hit.''

The Brewers, who fell to 2-11 against the Reds this season,
including 0-6 at Miller Park, loaded the bases in the bottom of the
fifth, but Dessens (6-5) worked his way out of the jam unscathed.

After left fielder Russell Branyan robbed Matt Stairs of a hit
with a diving catch, Houston singled and Jose Hernandez hit a
ground-rule double.

Dessens intentionally walked Robert Machado to get to Sheets, a
.132 hitter. After falling behind 2-0 on Sheets, Dessens threw
three straight fastballs by him and then got Alex Sanchez on a weak
groundball to short.

"As long as I keep throwing the ball well, that's all I can
do,'' Sheets said. "Obviously, you've seen my swing, I'm not going
to do nothing with the stick.''

Dessens, who walked three and struck out four, was lifted for
pinch-hitter Raul Gonzalez following Reggie Taylor's two-out double
in the seventh. Gonzalez struck out.

In the eighth, pinch-hitter Austin Kearns had a two-run triple
off Durocher before LaRue connected for his three-run shot.

Scott Williamson and Bruce Chen pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief
of Dessens and Reidling gave up one hit and one walk.

"Their pitchers did great, congratulations and all that, but we
didn't hit,'' Royster said.

Despite his record, Sheets said he feels as though he's pitching
better than he did in the first half last season, when his 10-4
record earned him a spot on the All-Star team.

"I'm growing up quick,'' he said. "I think it's going pretty
well this year. I'm right where I thought I'd be development-wise
except for the wins and losses.''

Game notes
Royster said 1B Richie Sexson will play through the pain
his knees. Team doctors told Royster that the only cure for
Sexson's hamstring tendinitis behind his knees is to take six weeks
off. Instead Sexson will try to take it easy on the base paths. ...
Brewers C Raul Casanova, on the DL with an elbow injury, began
swinging the bat Tuesday. Royster said it's too soon to say when
Casanova could return. ... The Reds hadn't won more than 10 games
against an opponent since 1995, when they went 12-1 against the
Houston Astros.