After two years away from the game, the Atlanta Braves are hoping Ben Sheets still has something left in the tank.
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.
While Matt Diaz is 18 for 35 (.514) with a homer against Santana, Dan Uggla has gone 1 for 21 with 12 strikeouts in their matchups. That one hit, though, left the yard.
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.