Sheets Dominant In Two-Hitter; Dunn, Renteria Homer Twice

Tuesday, April 3rd 2007, 7:34 am
By: News On 6

Ben Sheets was in midseason form, breezing through one batter after another in a spectacular opening-day performance for Milwaukee.

``Sheets was tough,'' Los Angeles 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.''

Sheets gave up an early home run to Jeff Kent, then retired his next 22 batters in a two-hitter Monday that led the Brewers to a 7-1 victory. He pitched 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.

Cincinnati's Adam Dunn and Atlanta's Edgar Renteria had their bats in full swing on opening day, each hitting two home runs in victories.

Dunn homered in his first two at-bats, and Aaron Harang allowed only an unearned run and six hits in seven innings as the Reds beat the Cubs 5-1 in Lou Piniella's debut as Chicago's manager.

``I felt good all spring,'' Dunn said. ``I felt good today. I hope I feel good for 161 more games.''

Renteria twice failed to execute a sacrifice in the 10th, then hit a two-run homer off Ryan Madson to lead the Braves past Philadelphia 5-3.

``I'm a bunting guy,'' Renteria said. ``I'll try and move the guy to second every time. That's my game. Sometimes you hit the ball good and the ball goes out.''

Houston closer Brad Lidge knows the feeling. Lidge, dogged by questions about his mind-set since Albert Pujols' home run in the 2005 NL championship series, blew a save when he allowed a homer to Xavier Nady in the ninth inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 4-2 win in 10 innings.

``It's not a nightmare,'' Lidge said. ``Honestly, the guy hit a good pitch tonight. I felt good out there and it's an unfortunate result. The reality is ... I still feel confident. So I'm not going to worry about tonight.''

In other NL games, it was: Florida 9, Washington 2; and Arizona 8, Colorado 6.

At Milwaukee, Sheets' stomach was in knots when he took the mound.

``Opening day,'' Sheets said. ``I've got a sumo wrestler wrestling in my belly. I was nervous.''

After Kent's homer wiped away the nerves and emotion, Sheets (1-0) delivered 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,'' Sheets said.

That's for sure. Sheets threw his 12th complete game in 167 starts, and said the shoulder problems that hounded him last year didn't bother him at all in spring training.

``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 today.''

Dodgers starter Derek Lowe (0-1) gave up six runs and walked five in four innings.

Reds 5, Cubs 1

At Cincinnati, Dunn hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Carlos Zambrano (0-1), a liner into the seats in right field. The next time up, Dunn hit the first pitch deep into the seats in right-center.

It was his second two-homer game on opening day _ he also did it against the Mets in 2005 _ and gave him a club-record five homers in opening games.

It was a glum day all around for the Cubs, who learned before the game that the Tribune Co. plans to sell the team at the end of the season.

Braves 5, Phillies 3

At Philadelphia, Renteria's solo shot off starter Brett Myers with two outs in the eighth inning tied it at 3.

John Smoltz went six innings, Bob Wickman (1-0) pitched out of a jam in the ninth and Chad Paronto tossed a scoreless 10th for the save. Brian McCann also homered for the Braves.

Jimmy Rollins hit a solo home run for the Phillies.

Pirates 4, Astros 2, 10 innings

Jason Bay's two-run homer in the 10th off Chad Qualls (0-1) spoiled the opener for a Minute Maid Park-record crowd of 43,803 that included former president George H.W. Bush.

The game went to extra innings after Lidge gave up the solo homer to Nady in the ninth.

Matt Capps (1-0) pitched the ninth for the win, while Salomon Torres pitched the 10th for the save.

Marlins 9, Nationals 2

At Washington, Miguel Cabrera homered into the upper deck off John Patterson (0-1) and drove in four runs to back Dontrelle Willis.

Florida's Fredi Gonzalez (Cuba) and Washington's Manny Acta (Dominican Republic) were the first pair of managers born outside the United States to make their major league debuts in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Willis (1-0) allowed one earned run and seven hits in six innings, leaving after 100 pitches.

Diamondbacks 8, Rockies 6

At Denver, Eric Byrnes lined a two-run single off LaTroy Hawkins (0-1) in the eighth and Arizona snapped a four-game losing streak on opening day.

Byrnes' bases-loaded single made a winner of right-hander Juan Cruz (1-0), who struck out the only batter he faced.

Jose Valverde gave up a leadoff double to Todd Helton in the ninth, but struck out Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe and rookie Troy Tulowitzki for the save.