MLB

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 - 12:35 PM ET
 

Braves-Pirates Preview

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Ben Sheets entered the majors with plenty of hype after helping Team USA win gold at the 2000 Olympics. Now, he's about to leave unceremoniously after injuries derailed a once-promising career.

Chipper Jones possibly playing his final regular-season game should add a bit more flare.

Sheets will take the mound for the last time while Jones caps his regular-season career when the Atlanta Braves face the host Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

It didn't take long for Sheets to reach the majors after his three-hitter helped beat Cuba in the gold-medal game in Sydney, eventually becoming a four-time All-Star with Milwaukee.

His career, though, has been marred by injuries. Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2009 season, and an operation to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow after 20 starts with Oakland in 2010 caused him to sit out 2011.

Atlanta signed Sheets (4-4, 3.54 ERA) on July 1, and he proceeded to win his first three starts while allowing one run in 18 innings. He plans to retire following his outing Wednesday that comes after he missed the last five weeks with right shoulder soreness.

"I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt I'm not playing again," Sheets told the team's official website. "No matter what, there is not enough help or money to pull me out of this one."

Sheets, though, is happy he made the comeback.

"I'd do it again," Sheets said. "I definitely enjoyed it. I had a front-row seat for (Jones' final games). Some people paid for that, which was worth it if they did."

Jones, who wasn't in the lineup Tuesday, won't appear in another regular-season game after this contest, though he'll participate in his 13th postseason when the Braves host the NL's one-game wild-card playoff on Friday.

The veteran has received parting gifts during his final visit to each stadium Atlanta played in throughout the season.

The Braves (93-68), though, will try to avoid being swept by a Pittsburgh team simply hoping to end the season on a high note after an epic second-half collapse led to the franchise's 20th consecutive losing season - a North American sports record.

The Pirates (79-82), who beat the Braves 2-1 on Monday and 5-1 on Tuesday, led the NL Central as late as July 18 and were 16 games over .500 on Aug. 6 with Andrew McCutchen hitting .369 and arguably leading the NL MVP race.

Pittsburgh since has gone 17-36 with McCutchen hitting only .260 in September.

One bright spot has been the emergence of A.J. Burnett, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Yankees after failing to live up to high expectations in the Bronx.

If Burnett (16-9, 3.43) can keep his ERA at or drop it below its current mark, it will be his best since posting a 3.30 ERA for the Florida Marlins in 2002.

He has a 2.50 ERA over his last six starts, but lack of run support has attributed to him having only one win in that span. The Pirates have scored zero or one run with Burnett on the mound five times during that stretch. They couldn't even provide a hit when he gave up seven singles in eight innings of a 1-0 loss to Homer Bailey and Cincinnati on Friday.

''The way A.J. pitched, it was going to take almost nothing short of a no-hitter to beat him,'' manager Clint Hurdle said.

It was a similar story for the right-hander when he faced the Braves on April 27, allowing two runs and striking out eight in six innings of a 6-1 defeat.

Pittsburgh, though, has won four of the six meetings between these teams in 2012.

Tagged: Braves, Pirates, Ben Sheets, Chipper Jones, A.J. Burnett

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