San Francisco — After looking overmatched against Giants pitchers on Friday, rookie sensation Jason Heyward looked, well, sensational against San Francisco on Saturday.
The right fielder went 3-for-3 with two walks, two RBIs and his second home run, and in all three Braves wins he’s had an extra-base hit (two homers, one double) to either tie or give the Braves a lead.
Heyward hit an opposite-field single off left-handed reliever Dan Runzier (who struck him out Friday), and he scorched an opposite-field homer in the sixth inning to begin the Braves’ late-innings scoring flurry in Saturday’s 7-2 win.
“That was the approach [Saturday, take what they gave me," said Heyward, who struck out four times Friday while chasing breaking balls in the dirt and other outside pitches. "Work on hitting the ball that way [to left], if that’s where they’re going to put it.”
He reached base in all five plate appearances Saturday, after going 0-for-5 Friday.
“He showed me something — the ability to make an adjustment in one day,” Giants left fielder Mark DeRosa said. “He’s going to have to prove to people that he can hit the ball the other way and handle off-speed stuff.
“Coming off the first game, to make that adjustment last night, to hit a laser beam out the other way, take his two walks, take a lefty the other way — you don’t do that at 20 years old.”
Of course, Heyward is no ordinary 20-year-old. He entered Sunday with a .300 average and .391 on-base percentage, and led major league rookies with two homers and seven RBIs. He was 4-for-6 with runners in scoring postion, twice as many hits as any other Brave had in those situations.
Heyward also showed impressive speed for someone 6 feet 5 and 245-pounds, gliding around the bases to score from first on Eric Hinske’s ninth-inning double Saturday.
“I told him, 20-year-old kid that can run and score from first on a double, I like that,” Hinske said, smiling.
Heyward endured an 0-for-11, seven-strikeout skid before Saturday, but manager Bobby Cox was never concerned and knew there would be ups and downs for a player with no prior big-league experience.
“He’s a young kid, 20 years old, and you can’t expect miracles every time,” Cox said. “He’s going to have his days when he looks like a normal guy, but he’s going to have a lot of great days ahead of him.”
After Heyward’s four-strikeout game, third baseman Chipper Jones said Braves veterans didn’t pull him aside to offer tips or advice on how to get out of his funk. They didn’t need to, Jones said.
“Just because he struck out doesn’t mean his approach has to change drastically,” he said. “Maybe the fact that he struck out four times was because of his aggressiveness; there’s a fine line there.
“But while we might be able to offer him some tidbits, I feel like he can make adjustments on his own. He’s supremely confident in his ability to make adjustments. He’s his best hitting coach.”