" Web Gem-worthy: In his debut as the Brewers' regular center fielder, Bill Hall made a diving catch going to his left in center field to start the third inning.
" Did you see that?: The Italian won the first sausage race of the season while the Chorizo, running its first full season, finished third.
" Elias Says: Big Ben pitched the first Opening Day complete game of two hits or less in 15 years.
-- ESPN.com news services
Brewers 7, Dodgers 1
MILWAUKEE -- Ben Sheets' stomach was in knots, and the
Brewers ace figured members of his family were doing jumping jacks
in the grandstands.
"Opening Day," Sheets said. "I've got a sumo wrestler
wrestling in my belly. I was nervous."
Then, Jeff Kent's home run wiped away the nerves and emotion,
and Sheets got down to the business of delivering one of the most
dominant performances by a pitcher in recent Opening Day history.
"Once he got me, I think that helped me kind of settle down,"
After Kent led off the second inning with a solo homer, Sheets
regrouped to retire the next 22 batters he faced on his way to a
two-hitter in the Milwaukee Brewers' 7-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.
So much for Opening Day jitters.
It was the first Opening Day complete game of two hits or fewer
in 15 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last to do
it had been Tom Glavine with a two-hitter for Atlanta against
Houston in 1992.
"Sheets was tough," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "We
were thinking all through the game we'd be able to get to him if we
got him into the stretch -- but it never happened."
The Brewers' playoff hopes rest heavily on the shaky shoulders
of Sheets (1-0), who has shown flashes of the ability to become an
ace since his major league debut with Milwaukee in 2001 but has
made only 39 starts in the past two seasons because of injuries.
"I'm happy finally, hopefully, that now I don't have to
continue answering questions about Ben Sheets' health," Brewers
manager Ned Yost said. "I think we all saw it for ourselves
Sheets, who threw his 12th complete game in 167 starts, says the
shoulder problems that hounded him last year didn't bother him at
all in spring training. He still was throwing in the mid-90s in the
seventh, according to scoreboard radar gun readouts.
Showing off his notoriously offbeat sense of humor, Sheets said
he doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about whether he'll be
injured "tripping on a roller skate."
"I kind of think it's a non-issue, you know?" Sheets said.
The Brewers also were sharp on defense and patient at the plate,
two areas where they struggled last season.
J.J. Hardy was 3-for-4 with an RBI in his return from
season-ending ankle surgery last July. Bill Hall hit an
opposite-field line drive home run to right in the sixth -- and,
making his debut as the Brewers' regular center fielder, nearly
robbed Kent of his home run.
"I told the kids after the game that this, quite literally,
could be the best game that I've ever had the opportunity as a
manager to watch a team play," Yost said.
The Brewers didn't hit Dodgers starter Derek Lowe hard, but Lowe
struggled with his control and gave up six runs in four innings in
the loss (0-1). Lowe said Brewers hitters were showing more
patience than they had in the past.
"If I had a little better command, I probably could have given
them a better fight," Lowe said. "Overall, it's one we all want
to forget in an hour."
Lowe didn't help himself by giving up five walks, but he also
didn't get much help from two new Los Angeles outfielders. Juan Pierre and Luis Gonzalez were signed to provide veteran leadership
to a team considered a World Series contender, but both misplayed
balls in their Dodgers debut.
Milwaukee took a 2-1 lead in the second after Corey Hart lined a
ball into center and advanced to second base when Pierre bobbled
the ball -- although Hart was credited with a double. Hart stole
third and scored on Hardy's single.
Milwaukee then broke open the game in the fourth thanks in part
to a misplayed fly ball by Gonzalez. Geoff Jenkins then hit a high
fly ball that Gonzalez lost track of near the wall. The ball
bounced near the warning track, allowing Prince Fielder and Estrada
to score and make it 6-1. Jenkins was credited with a double.
Gonzalez said the window panels in Miller Park's roof can make
fly balls an adventure during day games, but wasn't overly
concerned with one loss.
"We can't panic after one," Gonzalez said with a smile.
"We've been doing this a long time. By no means is the pennant out
Yost, meanwhile, was beaming about the way his team played and
saw only one flaw in Sheets' performance.
"Well, he struck out three times today," Yost said.
Little said he switched some of the team's signs for this
series because former Dodgers reliever Elmer Dessens now pitches
for Milwaukee. Dessens was traded for outfielder Brady Clark and
cash March 26. ... Clark took over for Andre Ethier in right field
in the fifth inning. ... Hall made a diving catch going to his left
in center field in the third inning. ... Little, no fan of opening
day fanfare, said his players would try their best to enjoy pregame
festivities. "I think there's going to be a flyover," Little
deadpanned. Miller Park's retractable roof was closed.