ATLANTA — Ben Sheets loved being back in the majors so much that he broke normal custom for starting pitchers and watched the last three innings from Atlanta’s hot dugout instead of the clubhouse.
“I like to do that and I’ve had very good feedback on it,” he said. “You work so hard to get a victory. I ain’t going to leave them out there. They’re battling for me.”
Sheets pitched six scoreless innings in his first game in two years and the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.
Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer in a six-run fifth inning, and Sheets (1-0) allowed two hits and one walk with five strikeouts in his first start since July 19, 2010.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Freeman said of his new teammate. “It didn’t look like he took two years off.”
Sheets, unsigned after he missed all of 2011 following elbow ligament replacement surgery, escaped a jam in the third with runners on second and third when David Wright flew out to deep right.
Sheets threw 88 pitches, 57 for strikes. In his previous start two years ago, he lost 2-1 to Boston while pitching for Oakland.
Making his 242nd career start, Sheets improved to 91-92 and lowered his ERA to 3.77.
“He mixed his pitches well, and his command was outstanding,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
“A little better than I thought it would be the first time out. He gave us a hell of an opportunity to win the ball game.”
The Mets have lost four in a row and seven of 10.
Atlanta improved to a season-high 10 games over .500.