The Atlanta Braves continued their hot streak over recent days, completing a sweep of the New York Mets on July 15 by the score of 6-1. Ben Sheets picked up his first win of the year for the Braves, while Johan Santana had his sixth loss.
Coming into the game, it really wasn't known whether Ben Sheets would be of any value to the Braves this year, as they had already struck out on other "experiments" such as Livan Hernandez and just needed someone to help fill in the gap at the back end of the starting rotation. Sheets proved that he was more than able to fill in the gap on July 15, as he went six innings and gave up no runs on two hits to go along with five strikeouts as well. Even though he got behind many hitters early in the count (12 first pitch strikes to 21 batters), his off-speed pitches looked great and fooled the Mets hitters throughout the game. While it is only one game, it certainly provides a glimmer of hope that the Braves have found a desperately needed answer in the rotation, and it will be interesting to see how he does in his next in an important game against the Washington Nationals.
After a 0 for 5 game the previous day, Chipper Jones was able to rebound with a 2 for 4 game in the series finale against the Mets that included one run scored. Jones still has a .317 average on the year to go along with seven home runs and 44 RBIs, and he is certainly exceeding expectations for the Braves in my view in 2012. The main question will be his health down the stretch and whether or not he can keep the numbers up, and with Juan Francisco not playing so well right now the Braves may have to rely on Chipper more down the stretch.
The Braves will finish their home stand with an interesting series against the San Francisco Giants starting on July 17, as Jair Jurrjens takes the mound against Barry Zito. Jurrjens has looked solid for the most part since joining the Braves back in late June, and I think he can keep it up against a Giants lineup that ranks 23rd in the league in runs scored. Barry Zito has had an up and down year for San Francisco with a 7-6 record and a 4.06 ERA, and is coming off of a mediocre outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, so the Braves should have a chance to pull out a win with the hot hitting they have throughout the lineup right now.
Ryan Kekoufski is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan.