Sheets is scheduled to make his season debut Sunday afternoon as the Braves try for a season-best seventh consecutive victory and a three-game sweep of the visiting New York Mets .
With Brandon Beachy out for the year and Mike Minor (5-6, 5.97 ERA) and Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52) both posting lackluster results, the Braves (48-39) decided to take a chance on Sheets. The oft-injured right-hander hasn't appeared in the majors since 2010, when he went 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 20 starts with Oakland before his season was cut short due to a torn flexor tendon and torn ligament in his throwing elbow.
"He's really, really pumped up about pitching again," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You don't always get a second chance, and I think him two years of not pitching and then getting a little taste of it, I think is going to be good."
The four-time All-Star signed a minor league deal July 1 and went 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA over two starts for Double-A Mississippi. Sheets will be on a pitch count Sunday and isn't expected to go deep into the game.
"Everything's working," said Sheets, 4-2 with a 4.56 ERA lifetime against New York. "Everything's feeling great. I've been throwing the ball good. Keep making good pitches, you'll get outs."
While Sheets expects some nerves before taking the mound, another crooked number from Atlanta's red-hot offense could help calm him down. The Braves have hit 10 homers and scored 37 runs while batting .285 during their six-game run.
After hitting R.A. Dickey hard, Atlanta put together a three-run, eighth-inning rally to defeat New York 8-7 on Saturday.
"This team is going to battle you the whole nine," Jason Heyward said after driving in the game-winning run. "It's great to get a win, and a team win at that."
Michael Bourn , Freddie Freeman and Eric Hinske each had two RBIs while Brian McCann , who missed Friday's 7-5 victory (paternity leave), went 1 for 3 with two runs scored. The All-Star catcher is batting .409 with four homers and 11 RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.
Losers of three in a row, the Mets (46-42) try to get back on track behind Johan Santana (6-5, 3.24). The left-hander was originally scheduled to pitch Friday but was pushed back due to a twisted ankle.
Santana surely can't wait to get back on the hill after getting roughed up in his final start before the All-Star break. He was tagged for a season-high seven runs and a career worst-tying 13 hits over 4 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs on July 6.
"(Santana's) human, so he's going to have a bad start every now and then," David Wright told the team's official website. "Coming into this season, it was such a big question mark. He answered that question. He'll be ready for the second half."
Santana also struggled during a 9-3 loss at Turner Field on April 17, yielding six runs - four earned - before being removed after 1 1-3 innings in the shortest start of his career. That outing dropped Santana to 3-7 over 14 lifetime starts versus Atlanta despite a 2.53 ERA.
Held out of Saturday's starting lineup, Mets right fielder Lucas Duda is uncertain to be available again due to a tight left hamstring.
With Andrelton Simmons (broken finger) out and fellow shortstop Jack Wilson (dislocated pinkie) day to day, Atlanta recalled Tyler Pastornicky from Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday and acquired minor leaguer Paul Janish from Cincinnati.
|New York Mets|
|July 11, 2012||Dillon Gee||Day-to-Day||Bloot clot in right shoulder|
|July 08, 2012||Dillon Gee||15-Day DL||Blood clot in right shoulder|
|July 03, 2012||Kirk Nieuwenhuis||Day-to-Day||Bruised right hand|
|June 23, 2012||Frank Francisco||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|June 16, 2012||Jason Bay||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 02, 2012||Mike Baxter||15-Day DL||Displaced right collarbone|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||15-Day DL||Broken right pinkie finger|
|July 08, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 05, 2012||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Left elbow impingement|
|June 17, 2012||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|June 16, 2012||Brandon Beachy||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right elbow soreness|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Ben Sheets loved being back in the majors so much that he broke normal custom for starting pitchers and watched the last three innings from Atlanta's hot dugout instead of the clubhouse.
"I like to do that and I've had very good feedback on it," he said. "You work so hard to get a victory. I ain't going to leave them out there. They're battling for me."
Sheets pitched six scoreless innings in his first game in two years and the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday for their season-high seventh straight victory.
Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer in a six-run fifth inning, and Sheets (1-0) allowed two hits and one walk with five strikeouts in his first start since July 19, 2010.
"I didn't know what to expect," Freeman said of his new teammate. "It didn't look like he took two years off."
The Mets have lost four straight and seven of 10. Atlanta improved to a season-high 10 games over .500.
Johan Santana (6-6) gave up eight hits, six runs, two walks and struck out three in five innings.
The Braves had placed just two runners in scoring position before Matt Diaz , who began the game with a .514 in 35 career at-bats against Santana, doubled to lead off the fifth.
After Paul Janish walked on a slider that appeared to cross the outside part of the plate for a strikeout, Michael Bourn hit a one-out, opposite-field RBI double down the line in left to score Diaz from second and make it 1-0.
Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen was ejected during a mound visit following Bourn's hit. When plate umpire C.B. Bucknor reached the mound, Warthen began arguing with him, apparently because Bucknor called Santana's fastball outside on the pitch that preceded Bourn's double.
"The Janish pitch - that was a strike," New York catcher Josh Thole said. "I'm certain. And then the backdoor sinker to Bourn - it was an outstanding pitch, and you ball that. Again, it changed the course of the game."
New York manager Terry Collins, who was ejected the day before, came on the field and spoke with crew chief Dale Scott near the third-base line, but walked back to dugout without further argument.
Martin Prado followed with a sacrifice fly RBI to score Janish, and Bourn crossed the plate from third on Jason Heyward 's RBI single. After Chipper Jones singled, Freeman hit his 12th homer to give the Braves a 6-0 lead.
Ramon Ramirez and Miguel Batista pitched the last three innings for New York.
Kris Medlen replaced Sheets and gave up Andres Torres ' RBI single to make it 6-1 in the seventh. Eric O'Flaherty got the third out of the eighth, and Anthony Varvaro pitched a scoreless ninth for Atlanta.
Sheets, unsigned after he missed all of 2011 following elbow ligament replacement surgery, escaped a jam in the third with runners on second and third when David Wright flew out to deep right.
Sheets threw 88 pitches, 57 for strikes. In his previous start two years ago, he lost 2-1 to Boston while pitching for Oakland.
Making his 242nd career start, Sheets improved to 91-92 and lowered his ERA to 3.77. Against the Mets, Sheets improved to 5-2 with a 4.05 ERA. The Braves purchased the former Milwaukee ace's contract from Double-A Mississippi before the game.
"He mixed his pitches well, and his command was outstanding," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "A little better than I thought it would be the first time out. He gave us a hell of an opportunity to win the ball game."
Santana hadn't pitched since twisting his right ankle while covering first base in an 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs on July 6.
Since throwing the Mets' first no-hitter on June 1 against St. Louis, Santana dropped to 3-4 with a 5.45 ERA in his last seven starts. He has given up 11 homers over that span.
Santana, who hasn't gotten a win against the Braves since Sept. 2, 2010, had the shortest start of his career, 1 1-3 innings, in a 9-3 loss at Turner Field on April 17.
"We felt that we threw good pitches and didn't get the call," he said. "It's tough when you have a game like this and one pitch could be the difference in the game. I didn't question anything, and it's too bad that a couple of pitches changed the whole ballgame."
NOTES: The Braves haven't had a longer winning streak since they took 9 straight from May 26-June 3, 2010. ... Santana threw 95 pitches, 56 for strikes. It was the third time in seven starts that he has allowed at least six runs. ... Mets RF Lucas Duda will have his left hamstring examined by a doctor in New York on Monday. He was held out of the lineup for the second straight game. ... Janish, who was acquired in a Saturday trade with Cincinnati, played in the majors for the first time this season. The 29-year-old spent the last 3 1/2 months at Triple-A Louisville. ... Prado made his first start at 2B since 2009. ... Gonzalez said RHP Randall Delgado will be recalled Saturday to start one of the Braves' doubleheader games at Washington. Delgado was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room on the roster for Sheets. ... Atlanta placed SS Jack Wilson on the DL to make room for Janish.