Earlier today, Atlanta Braves starter Ben Sheets tossed six innings of scoreless, two-hit ball, recording five strikeouts and issuing just one walk in a 6-1 win over the New York Mets.
Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it?
Perhaps. But it had been an awful long time coming.
To understand why, you'd have to know the whole story. You'd have to know that at one time, Sheets was one of Major League Baseball's premiere pitchers, the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers staff, a four-time All-Star, and a member of the United States national team that won a gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics. At one time, Sheets was on top of the world.
That was before injuries really began to take their toll. While he had always been injury-prone and had spent quite a bit of time on the disabled list throughout his career, Sheets' career appeared to be over - even he will tell you that - after he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in August of 2010.
Sheets, then with the Oakland Athletics, was not resigned by the club, making him a free agent, something that he remained until just two weeks ago, when the Braves inked him to a minor league deal and tabbed him to possibly take the place of either Mike Minor or Randall Delgado in their starting rotation.
At Double-A Mississippi, Sheets showed glimpses of his former self, but no one could have predicted what happened in his return to the big leagues.
On this day, Sheets reminded many of just why we love sports: because of incredible stories like his.
It's no secret that the Braves took a gamble when they signed Sheets, a 33-year-old right-hander out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They could just as easily get a pitcher who is a shell of his former self rather than the strikeout machine that Sheets has been throughout his career, totaling 1,290 Ks in 241 starts prior to today's game, an average of over five strikeouts per game.
For at least one day, though, Sheets was his old familiar self, surpassing everyone's expectations by pitching just as well as he did during his eight seasons with the Brewers, earning his first win since July 10, 2010.
The question is, can he keep it up? Can he help bolster a staff that has been up-and-down all season long? Can he play a part in leading Atlanta back to the playoffs, making his first postseason appearance in the process?
It's impossible to tell just yet, but in the comeback story of Ben Sheets, the first chapter was a mighty good one.
Sources: ESPN.com and baseball-reference.com
Josh McKinney is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan who has grown up during the Chipper Jones era and has been waiting for the Braves to capture another World Series championship for several years now. He feels that the addition of Ben Sheets has the potential to be the move that puts them over the top and allows to them to win that elusive title.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Milwaukee Brewers