MILWAUKEE -- On paper, the Rockies were all but beaten when they sent Glendon Rusch and his 7.36 ERA to the mound against Brewers ace Ben Sheets on the road at Miller Park. But the unlikely ex-Brewers pitcher haunted his old team to make fans remember why they play the games. Sheets didn't pitch poorly, but Rusch tossed a great game and his offense came alive late to give the Rockies an 8-3 road victory and set up a chance for them to win the four-game series in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon.
"We struggled to score runs tonight," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "[Rusch] threw a good game, but you look at the matchup going in and you think, 'Man.' But Glendon matched Benny pitch-for-pitch. He actually outpitched him there a little bit." It was Rusch's first win as a starter in exactly two years. His last one also came on July 9 and was also at Miller Park, back when he was a member of the Cubs in 2006. It was also just his second start since joining the Rockies. Rusch laughed when he thought about how far he has come from where he was a year ago. "Last year, I was eating Dodger Dogs and nachos and cheering those guys on," Rusch said. "So it's nice to be able to play, this year's been fun." He allowed a solo home run to Brewers third baseman Bill Hall, but that was it. He threw six innings of one-run baseball, lowering his ERA more than a full run as he allowed five hits while walking none and striking out four. "It's obviously a tough offensive lineup that they have," Rusch said. "But I felt good. I tried to keep them back and forth as much as I could on the inside and outside part of the plate, mix speeds and get ahead [in the count]." Everything seemed to be against Rusch going into the game. The Rockies have struggled on the road in 2008, the Brewers were an NL-best 20-8 against lefties coming in, and Sheets had his good stuff on Wednesday night. "You always know it's going to be tough any time you face [Sheets]," Rusch said. "You know you're not going to have a big inning against him, you're just trying to scrape out a few runs against him." The Rockies were able to do just that and got Rusch (2-3) the win. Sheets (10-3) kept the Rockies' offense in check for much of his outing and was dominant in the early going. He struck out 11 Colorado batters over his six innings of work, but his pitch count ballooned and he allowed three runs in his final two frames. "You're not going to see a pitcher come out any hotter than Ben came out tonight," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "That being said, by the end of the fifth inning [the score] was 1-1. We got a great start from Rusch, he retired 11 of his last 12. "It was just what we needed." The turning point for Colorado came in the sixth inning when Garrett Atkins hit a two-run, go-ahead homer off Sheets to give the Rockies their first lead of the game. The score was tied at 1 when Atkins launched Sheets' pitch into the left-field bleachers. The Rox added one more run in the seventh before the Brewers would make the game close again. Manuel Corpas came in to relieve Rusch and allowed the Brewers to get within a run at 4-3, but he managed to escape the inning by striking out Rickie Weeks with a man on. But Brewers reliever Guillermo Mota would repay the favor. He allowed four runs on four straight Rockies hits -- including two home runs -- in the eighth inning for the lopsided final score. Atkins hit his second homer of the game off of Mota in the inning. He ended up going 3-for-4 with the two four-baggers, a single and three RBIS. He has now reached base in seven of his last eight plate appearances after going 2-for-2 with 2 walks and two runs scored on Tuesday. "Atkins is killing us," Yost said. "It's bad execution. We're not making pitches. But these guys -- [Matt] Holliday, [Brad] Hawpe, Atkins -- you make a mistake, they're going to make you pay." Holliday extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games, and has hit safely in 24 of his last 25 games. He's batting .420 during the hitting streak. Scott Podsednik, another former member of the Brewers, also came up big. He had two run-scoring singles, including the hit that tied the game in the fifth inning.
Dave Fultz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.