So look what happens when the Braves get aggressive:
Nate McLouth swings on the first pitch of the game Friday night – home run.
Jason Heyward swings on the first pitch he sees in the third inning – two-run home run.
Tommy Hanson pounds the strike zone with 72 of his 99 pitches for strikes.
With that, and a Billy Wagner save, the Braves snapped their nine-game losing streak by going on the offensive Friday night, and it worked out perfectly.
It was a beautiful thing to manager Bobby Cox, who’s been wanting Braves like Heyward and McLouth to swing at hittable strikes.
“You can’t feel for the ball all the time,” Cox said. “You’ve got to let it go once in a while. Hopefully (McLouth) will continue to be more aggressive.”
Apparently Heyward doesn’t need to be told twice. The 20-year-old has shown the ability to make lightning-quick adjustments his first month in the big leagues.
On Wednesday, Cox sat him for the first time this season, after he struck out looking with the bases loaded with a key scoring opportunity on Tuesday in St. Louis. He gave him a rest and time to contemplate taking a little more aggressive approach. Heyward’s two games since? Homer. And homer.
“You want to get in that groove to where that instinct becomes more natural, on a more consistent basis,” Heyward said. “I’m just trying to go up there and say, my only decision should be not to swing. Be ready to hit every pitch that’s thrown up there and trust your eye.”
HANSON GOING DEEP
As for Hanson, he pitched past the sixth inning for the first time this season, and he blew past it. He’d thrown only 81 pitches after six innings, needed only six pitches in the seventh, and 12 in the eighth. He was sitting at 99 pitches entering the ninth and Cox could have easily run him out there.
“Hanson could have gone one more probably, and if our bullpen was tired out there, the short guys, we would have let him finish, but we’ve had a ton of rest with Wags and he was ready to go,” Cox said. “Get him jump-started also.”
Hanson’s first four starts looked like this:
Chicago 5 1/3 innings 100 pitches
San Diego 6 innings 101 pitches
Philly 4 2/3 innings 102 pitches
New York 5 innings 93 pitches
The last outing in New York was shortened by rain. But for the other three, Hanson admitted maybe he’d gotten away from his usual aggressive mode.
“My style of pitching is to be aggressive and make them hit my best stuff,” Hanson said. “Maybe I did get away from it a little bit, going out there and trying to make perfect pitches or too good of pitches instead of letting them put the ball in play and just pound the zone.”
Hanson also showed the kind of stopper he can be, with the Braves looking for something positive Friday night to turn this nine-game losing streak around.
“I like when I get the ball in big games and big situations,” Hanson said. “So I wanted to go out there and do exactly what I said, be aggressive and try to go as deep as possible and make pitches. It worked out tonight. We got the win. You can see how everyone is acting around here, a little more chipper than the last few days.”