Sheets yanked in third inning as Astros batter Brewers

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Fernando Nieve pitched seven innings to earn his first major-league win, and the Houston Astros roughed up Brewers ace Ben Sheets in an 8-5 victory on Tuesday night.

Nieve helped the Astros match their best record in franchise history by retiring 14 in a row at one point, giving up four runs and six hits with seven strikeouts. The 23-year-old Venezuelan signed with the Astros when he was 16, spent several years in the minors and made his major-league debut earlier this season.

Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.

Sheets (1-3) gave up nine hits and seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in one of the worst outings of his career. His only shorter outing was one inning against Philadelphia in 2003, when Sheets was pulled as a precaution but made his next start.

The Astros scored in each of the first three innings, starting with Lance Berkman's sacrifice fly to score Craig Biggio. It was Berkman's 31st RBI, good for second best in baseball behind 32 by Albert Pujols.

But Houston did most of its damage in the second with five straight hits off Sheets.

Adam Everett doubled in two runs and Nieve's first major league hit scored Brad Ausmus to make it 4-0.

Willy Taveras capped the inning with a fielder's choice that scored Everett.

After hard-hit singles near the mound in the third inning by Preston Wilson and Ausmus, the second driving in Mike Lamb to make it 6-2, Sheets was pulled for reliever Ben Hendrickson, who allowed Wilson to score on Everett's single.

Sheets' fastball didn't have the zip it did in his previous three appearances since coming off the disabled list April 16. He reached 96 mph in the last inning of his last appearance, but never hit above 92 mph on the radar gun Tuesday as his ERA ballooned to 6.64.

Nieve (1-0) allowed three home runs in his third career start. Bill Hall had a two-run drive, J.J. Hardy a solo shot and Damian Miller a solo homer.

Prince Fielder, named NL Rookie of the Month for April, doubled
in Hardy in the eighth to cut the Astros lead to 8-5.

Game notes
Brewers starter Tomo Ohka will have an MRI on Wednesday. He said he still felt stiff after being removed from Monday's game with a right shoulder strain. Brewers manager Ned Yost said even if Ohka skips his next start, it won't dramatically alter the rotation because of an off day coming up Monday. ... The Brewers started
Hall in center field for the first time. Yost thinks "utility players" is a demeaning term toward players like Hall, Chone Figgins of the Angels and Ryan Freel of the Reds. He thinks they should be called "rovers" instead. ... Astros manager Phil Garner said he just finished reading "Game of Shadows" on Tuesday. His
thoughts? "It's frightening," he said. "It's frightening what
people will do to win." ... The Astros also started 17-9 in 1980.