Ben Sheets Shows Veteran Fortitude in Braves' Win over Nationals

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIJuly 21, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21:  Ben Sheets #30 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 21, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Atlanta Braves starter Ben Sheets showed he is in the rotation to stay after Saturday's performance against the Nationals.

Sheets went six innings, gave up five hits, allowed no runs and struck out six.

But what showed me the most was Sheets' fortitude to get through tough innings, when it looked like he was in trouble.

In four of the six innings, Sheets allowed Washington baserunners to get in scoring position.

But, each time that happened, the right-hander hunkered down and got the needed outs to get out of the inning.

In the first inning, it was a strikeout to Adam LaRoche. The second saw Danny Espinosa strike out, and Jesus Flores and Edwin Jackson fly out.

The third inning saw Michael Morse ground into a double play to end the inning, and the sixth had LaRoche striking out (again) and Ian Desmond flying out to center.

Although the frustration was evident on Sheets' face when Washington runners got on, it didn't affect him as he went after the hitters at the plate.

And, for a team that needed another veteran in the rotation, that's very important.

For the season, Sheets has now pitched 12 innings, given up seven hits, no runs and struck out 11. Even more, his season WHIP is 0.92.

Although it's only two starts, it's still something the Braves have been looking for in terms of consistency.

In an article I wrote on July 17, I stated that after Sheets' first start for the Braves, he deserved a longer look in the rotation.

After Saturday's performance, I don't think he deserves a longer look.

Instead, slot him in the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson. He's earned it in just two starts.

Sheets' next start will either be Wednesday against the Marlins or Friday at home against the Phillies, depending on if the Braves make a trade for another starter, or if they call up Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran to make a spot start on Wednesday to allow Sheets to get full rest.