Instead of building on the success he has experienced since beginning his comeback a month ago, Sheets endured his least impressive start of the year and allowed the Mets to avoid a three-game sweep with a 6-5 win over the Braves at Citi Field.
It did not take long for the Braves to figure out this might not be an enjoyable evening. They stranded two runners in the first inning after Michael Bourn began the game with a double and Martin Prado followed with a walk. Sheets then surrendered hits to three of the first four batters he faced in New York's two-run first inning.
Adding to the evening's frustration was the fact that the Braves were unable to take advantage of a rare opportunity to gain ground on the first-place Nationals, who had seen their eight-game winning streak erased approximately an hour before the first pitch of this series finale was thrown.
Courtesy of what was just their fourth loss in their past 18 games, the Braves remained 4 1/2 games behind the Nationals in the National League East race. They were facing this same exact deficit when they began this successful 18-game stretch on July 24.
Sheets was charged with five runs -- four earned -- and eight hits in a 107-pitch, six-inning effort. The 34-year-old right-hander had allowed one or no runs in four of the previ-ous five starts he had made since ending a two-year retire-ment by joining the Braves' rotation after the All-Star break.
While Sheets struggled, Mets starter Jon Niese limited the Braves to just one run in eight innings. After Freddie Free-man homered for the second straight day, the Mets left-hander did not allow another Braves player to advance past first base.
Like in his only previous loss against the Marlins on Aug. 1, Sheets struggled to get through the first inning. His trou-bles began when Mike Baxter singled and then scored from first base on an opposite-field double that David Wright sliced down the right-field line. Wright advanced to third base on the play and scored when Ike Davis looped a soft sin-gle to shallow right field with the infield drawn in toward home plate.
The Mets added a run in the second inning with the help of two singles and a sacrifice bunt produced by Niese. After needing 51 pitches to get through the first two innings, Sheets kept the Mets scoreless until Wright doubled and scored on another soft single by Davis in the fifth inning.
Jordany Valdespin then added to Sheets' disgust by drill-ing a leadoff home run in the sixth inning. It was just the sec-ond home run the veteran pitcher has surrendered in the 38 innings he has completed this year.
After the Mets scored what proved to be a crucial insur-ance run against Cristhian Martinez in the eighth inning, the Braves constructed a four-run ninth with the benefit of just one hit. They loaded the bases with Josh Edgin issuing two walks and hitting Freeman with a pitch. Closer Frank Fran-cisco then issued consecutive bases-loaded walks with two outs before Martin Prado laced a two-run double down the right-field line.
With runners at second and third base, right-handed re-liever Jon Rauch put an end to the madness by striking out Jason Heyward to end the game.