Sheets delivers first win since joining A’s
OAKLAND – Ben Sheets headed through a clubhouse hallway, huge ice bag on his right arm, when clubbie Brian Davis stopped the pitcher with a token of congratulations for his long-awaited win.
It was a simple, green ‘W’ uniform letter hanging from a nylon yellow laundry loop used to keep players’ gear in order for the washing machine.
Sheets hollered and the two embraced. The gesture meant a lot.
“He loved it,” Davis said with a smile.
Sheets pounded the strike zone like his old aggressive self and finally commanded his fastball, winning for the first time since September 2008 in the Oakland Athletics’ 6-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.
“It’s good to be part of a victory, the first one I’ve been part of this year,” Sheets said.
Sheets (1-0), who missed all of 2009 recovering from elbow surgery, pitched six scoreless innings and made good for the first time on general manager Billy Beane’s bold offseason move of giving him $10 million to be the A’s new ace. Beane believed Sheets could return to the form that has made him a four-time All-Star.
“Six scoreless innings, you can’t do a lot better,” A’s manager Bob Geren said.
The 31-year-old right-hander gave up five hits, struck out four and walked three to win for the first time since a five-hit shutout of San Diego on Sept. 6, 2008, while with Milwaukee.
Oakland gave Sheets a one-year contract in January, 11 months after his elbow surgery.
“I’m sure there were times where it seemed it might just be easier to hang them up,” Sheets said. “But you still go to rehab, you still go to work and you still put in your effort to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy something like this.”
Now, he wants to work deeper into games and be more efficient with quick, clean innings. The old Sheets often produced 1-2-3 innings. But he also knows he must be patient with himself.
“I’m walking people. I’m not used to walking people,” Sheets said.
Exactly a month earlier than his latest start, on March 15, Sheets was tagged for 10 runs without retiring a batter in an awful spring training outing against the Reds.
“It hasn’t been easy and it’s not going to be easy,” Sheets said. “I’m happy with what’s going on so far. I feel like I’m competing out there. It’s not always pretty and it’s not going to be pretty. I’m used to having more clean innings, and I haven’t had many of them.”
Ryan Sweeney had an RBI groundout and a fifth-inning double to give him a 10-game hitting streak to start the season and Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Chavez each hit sacrifice flies for the A’s, who got back on track offensively. Cliff Pennington drove in a pair of runs.
Oakland managed only two runs total in its previous two losses in Seattle after winning the series opener against the Mariners 4-0 on Monday at Safeco Field.
Baltimore couldn’t do much against Sheets and lost its seventh straight.
At 1-9, the Orioles are off to the club’s worst start since going 0-21 in 1988 before finally getting a win. They kicked off a tough 10-game road trip with another demoralizing defeat – perhaps the highlight was a warm ovation for Miguel Tejada from his former fans in the Bay Area, where he won the 2002 AL MVP award.
Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly to center in the seventh for the Orioles’ first run, then Adam Jones added an RBI triple off Jerry Blevins with two outs in the ninth.
“That’s been our trademark so far in 2010: We’re not getting hits that are doing damage,” Jones said. “It seems like we’re one hit away from doing just that. We’re going to get those hits, I know we are. We just have to keep moving forward, just play and let everything else take care of itself.”
Baltimore starter David Hernandez (0-2) allowed seven hits and five runs – four earned – in five innings, struck out six and walked one.
Injured Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts, placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a strained abdominal muscle that also has re-aggravated a herniated disk in his back, is scheduled to be examined by spine specialist Dr. Lee Riley on Friday in Baltimore. Roberts received an epidural injection Monday.
Notes: Orioles LF Felix Pie was removed from the game after hitting in the top of the seventh with a strained left shoulder that has been bothering him. He won’t Friday. … Oakland won the season series last year 5-1, sweeping three at the Coliseum. … With Orioles closer Mike Gonzalez on the disabled list because of a strained left shoulder, manager Dave Trembley expects RHP Jim Johnson to pick up much of the load in save situations. He also will make decisions based on matchups. … A’s 2B Mark Ellis, nursing a strained hamstring, took grounder and batting practice. “He’s close,” Manager Bob Geren said. “He’s feeling better each day.” … The A’s extended their contract with the Class A Stockton Ports through the 2014 season.
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