LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Apparently they just needed to turn on the lights for Jason Heyward.
The right fielder hit a first-inning grand slam Friday to send the Braves and Tommy Hanson to a 9-5 win against the Houston Astros at Champion Stadium, the second homer for Heyward in two night games this week.
Michael Bourn also homered for the Braves against his former team, and Hanson allowed five hits and two runs in three innings in his first official start of the spring.
“I made my pitches at points, other times I didn’t,” said Hanson, who had three strikeouts with no walks and gave up a homer to Travis Buck. “I’m not worried about it, I’m not happy about it, it was just another day working. I feel like I’m on my way to getting better.”
The lanky right-hander debuted his retooled, smoother delivery Sunday against Toronto, a game that got rained out in the second inning. After missing more than a week for a concussion, he allowed three hits and two earned runs pitching in steady showers.
“This start I was a lot more comfortable, probably because it was nice weather,” he said. “I definitely felt more comfortable this time, but I still feel like it was my first start. The other one wasn’t much of a start.”
Heyward’s second homer in three games was a first-pitch grand slam off lefty Wandy Rodriguez. He homered Wednesday off Washington phenom Stephen Strasburg in Atlanta’s first night game of the spring, also a win.
“For me that’s the result of better path through the ball and getting better backspin on the ball,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s a big, strong kid. When he’s right, it doesn’t matter” if he’s facing a lefty or right-hander.
The Braves have a 1-11-1 record in day games and 2-0 in night games.
Heyward has two homers, a double off the wall and five RBIs in two night games. In 11 days games, he’s 4-for-31 (.129) with a double and three RBIs.
Rodriguez retired the first two batters before three consecutive singles by Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman gave the Braves a 1-0 lead. After a walk by Jordan Parraz, Heyward drove the next pitch over the right-field wall.
“Guy loads the bases up and he’s aggressive; we like to see that,” Gonzalez said. “That’s something that [hitting coach] Greg [Walker] has been preaching, ‘Be aggressive. Be ready to hit the first pitch.’ Confucius says if you let the fastball down the middle go, you’ll soon be chasing breaking balls in the dirt. So be aggressive”
The Astros chipped away at the lead and pulled to within 5-3 before Bourn’s two-run homer in the fourth. The Astros traded Bourn to the Braves before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
The speedy center fielder served as DH on Friday to get some rest and so the Braves could see bench candidate Jordan Parraz play center. He misplayed a fly ball at the warning track into a two-base error in the seventh inning that led to an unearned run.