The Braves were in a big hurry to bring up Ben Sheets, and now we know why. Making his first major league start in two years, Sheets shut out the Mets for six innings on Sunday.
Throwing 89-92 mph with his fastball and demonstrating a surprisingly sharp curve, Sheets allowed just two hits and struck out five in the 88-pitch outing. The Braves were up 6-0 when they removed him for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth and went on to win 6-1.
Sheets didn’t know if he’d pitch again following Tommy John surgery in 2010. His elbow had major damage besides just the ligament, and he still wasn’t ready to pitch this spring after a year and a half off. The Braves signed him last month and brought him up after just two minor league starts in which he had a 5.06 ERA. It seemed like an act of desperation, but it turns out they knew exactly what they were doing.
How long Sheets’ arm will hold up this time is anyone’s guess. The 33-year-old hasn’t been an effective major league starter since 2008, and his last full season was 2004. The Braves, though, only need a half-season out of him now. For one day, at least, he gave them a nice lift.
Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.
The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.
Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.
As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:
Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.
Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.
Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.