LOS ANGELES – During a Jason Heyward 10-game slump last April, then Braves manager Bobby Cox benched him for one game and said he wanted the young slugger to be more aggressive and stop taking so many close pitches.
Now, with Heyward in the midst of a 12-game slump, new manager Fredi Gonzalez wants him to be more patient.
Heyward was 7-for-42 (.167) in his past 12 games before Wednesday, with two homers, two RBIs, five walks, six strikeouts and a .255 on-base percentage and .381 slugging percentage.
“Here’s a guy with a lot of patience, who gets walks and everything, and it seems like he’s been making outs and swinging at balls early in counts,” Gonzalez said. “I just told him to be patient. But that’s usually what happens when guys are going bad, they’re swinging at pitches out of the strike zone and making quick outs.”
For the season, Heyward was 2-for-16 with runners on base, with five walks and four strikeouts. After getting behind 0-1 in counts, he was 4-for-24 with two walks and a .231 OBP. With two strikes, he was 3-for-25.
He was 0-for-9 with no walks and a slew of groundouts to the right side in the first two games of the four-game series at Los Angeles, making him 1-for-20 with no walks in his pas five games against the Dodgers and 3-for-27 (.081) with 12 strikeouts and no extra-base hits in nine career games against them.
It was mentioned to Gonzalez on Wednesday that Cox had urged Heyward to be more aggressive late last April, when he was getting rung up on some called third strikes and not swinging at some hittable pitches.
“There’s a fine line,” Gonzalez said. “[Freddie] Freeman earlier in the season, he was like, in four at-bats he saw 3-1/2 pitches. It was unbelievable. Usually when you’re not going good, you’re swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, and I think [Heyward] is doing that a little bit right now.”
Hinske’s two-hit pinch inning
Eric Hinske hit a two-run pinch-hit homer in the Braves’ eight-run ninth inning Tuesday, then added an RBI single later in the inning. It was the second time in his career that Hinske had two hits in an inning after entering as a pinch-hitter, and the first time a Braves hitter did it since Julio Franco in 2004 against the Mets.
In such cases, scoring rules state that a hitter is not considered a pinch-hitter in his second time up. Therefore, Hinske was credited with only one pinch hit and one pinch-hit plate appearance.
Brooks Conrad had snapped the Braves’ 0-for-25 start by pinch-hitters with a single in the seventh inning Tuesday. Hinske’s homer accounted for the team’s first pinch-hit RBIs.
Last season, Braves pinch-hitters led the NL with 42 pinch-hit RBIs, tied for first with 10 pinch-hit homers, and ranked third with a .250 average.