First question asked is about Kimbrel and his value to team, to which manager looked surprised
“Well we wouldn’t have gotten there if it wasn’t for Jason Heyward, you know?
“Kimbrel’s good. He’s been terrific. We all know he’s got a plus-plus fastball, but it seems he’s gotten to where he’s pitched. He throws breaking balls over for strikes on the first pitch, so guys can’t go out there hunting first pitch, they can’t ambush him. They’ve got to respect both his pitches. It’s been nice to go to him the last year-and-a-half and he’s been terrific.
“I thought our bullpen today bent a little bit but didn’t break, and it’s showing some signs of being the bullpen of last year. It’s tough to hold a one-run lead in this ballpark against that lineup, and we did it. It was a nice double-play ball by O’Flaherty, and Venters had a big strikeout to end the seventh.”
On Heyward’s strong throw and all-around performance
“He can change the game so many difference ways, offensively, defensively and on the basepath. And he did today. He ran for a triple, threw a guy out at the plate – we threw two guys out at the plate, because Chipper made a nice play on the other one with Teixiera [batting in the seventh] and cut that runner down.
“And Heyward had super at-bats today.”
On pair of 22-year-old with big hits today, Heyward and Simmons
“What have we got, three of them out there right now, with Freeman? It’s nice to see those guys playing on a big stage like this against a big team that’s hot as a firecracker. And we did a nice job on our approach at the plate. Not early on, but I think after the third inning we did a nice job against Kuroda to get his pitch count up.”
On Hudson laboring but making big pitch to strike out Granderson
“He made a couple of tough pitches. We put him behind the eight-ball in that fourth, when Freeman makes an error on that tough play, and then Chipper on that ball that’s hooking, the one that Martin it. I think he ended up throwing 20-plus pitches that inning and it kind of put him behind the eight-ball, but he’s a gamer. He’s a battler. It was good to see that we were able to get that run in the top of the inning and he gets a victory.”
Were you ready to take him out when you went out to chat with 2 on, 2 out in 5th?
“I was more worried about his ankle than I was his pitch count or his arm or who was coming up. And he assured me he could get the guy out. He didn’t tell me if it was Swisher or the baserunner at the plate [Fredi joking here], but he did a nice job.”
“He battles. The thing with the ankle – we’ve got to keep an eye on him. Whether he’s pitching or walking around, at the end of the day it’s going to bother him a little bit. So he gets an extra couple of days after today’s start, and maybe he’ll feel better again.”
On Venters’ working out of jam in seventh
“He’s been having some tough times, and I was glad to see him get out there and get through those guys and get a big punchout there to end the seventh. And then O’Flaherty, to induce a double play after he hit Andruw with a slider. So it was good. Like I said earlier, I think the back end of that bullpen is shaping up.”
Can you take us through the throw you made to gun down the runner at home
“Right there you want to be in position to make sure you can try to make the best throw possible. I mean, if he hits it over your head the guy’s going to score. All you can do is make the best throw possible.”
You fielded it coming in hard and threw in one motion
“I got a good hop, almost as perfect as it could have went.”
Have you felt as good in the past week or so as the numbers indicate?
“Yes and no. But I’m working at it, man. All I can do is show up every day, try to go out there and compete, have some fun and try to contribute every night.”
On doing well against the team his grandfather used to watch
“It’s pretty cool. It’s a fun place to play, nice stadium. These six games here [between the Braves and Yankees], my two favorite teams growing up, it’s awesome to be able to play in both stadiums, have some fun, play some good baseball.”
On the triple, never slowed down?
“A little bit. It was in front of me so I had to see how he was going to play it. He had a little trouble off the wall, so I said I’ve got to try it.”
More on his strong throw home on Swisher’s single
“Right there it was do or die. It was still a close game. That’s what you want to do. You want to put yourself in position to be able to make that throw on ball hit in front of you.”
Nice job getting Swisher to hit it to Heyward (kidding)
“Yeah, it was great placement on my part…. I just didn’t make the pitch I wanted to. Fastball came back over the plate and he got a base hit. Luckily Heyward came up throwing. They had a fast guy at second, so it was nice.”
On the bullpen picking you up after the two-error inning
“Yeah, my bullpen did pick me up. The defense has been great behind me all year. There were a couple of plays – rocket to Chipper; I’m wondering if that’s really an error or not. Freddie’s a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman, so that’s kind of a flukey thing that he didn’t make that play. But it is what it is. You’ve just got to make pitches, and luckily it didn’t cost us the game.”
On Heyward’s game
“He shows flashes of greatness. Every now and again he shows you what he can do. Defensively he’s been awesome. He covers a lot of ground out there and he’s got a great arm, and he’s been coming up with some big hits for us lately. It’s nice to see.”
On Simmons’ game, big hits
“Yeah, he’s really good. I think the sky’s the limit for him. He’s definitely smooth out there in the field. I feel great having him behind me. He’s really starting to show that he can swing the bat up here at this level, too. He’s hit everywhere he’s been. It’s one of those things where there may not be a dropoff for him. He may be able to hit just as well here as he has other places. We’ll find out.”
How’s the ankle?
“It’s all right. It’s a struggle at times, but it is what it is. Got to take care of it, put the fire out, get ready for my next start.”
On him and Heyward getting big hits
“The youngsters getting it done today.” [laughs]
On getting some hits to support Hudson on night when he grinded out some long innings
“He threw great. He made maybe one or two mistakes, but he threw great. We played pretty good defense behind him. Made two errors, but tough [plays]….
“Great throw by Jason, nailed that guy. We played pretty good baseball, executed pretty well with runners in scoring position. Relievers did a great job keeping the game where it was.”
How much fun is it to contribute hits, when some wondered if you were ready to hit at this level
“It feels great. I’m not concerned about [hitting]. I’m seeing the ball really well. I expect to do good, and when I’m not, if I miss a pitch I should have hit, I get upset. I feel like I should get a hit every at-bat, but especially when I get a good pitch. I feel like I’ve got to hit it well. Tonight I did it pretty well.”
On his fourth-inning error
“I could have made the play. Sometimes the ball knuckles, sometimes the ball has top spin. Playing third base is a reaction position. Sometimes you’re going to whiff on some balls. You get in-between hops, that’s just part of the game. Got to stay in every pitch, or else the next one will be down your throat.”
On Heyward’s throw
“That’s the best throw I’ve seen him make. Especially under pressure. And he swung the bat good, too. He got us kind of kick-started there early, then put the icing on the cake late.”
On the win
“Solid game. Both pitchers probably didn’t have their best stuff, but the bullpens were up to the task tonight.”
On Heyward’s recent hitting
“About the last five days to a week, he’s probably swung the bat as well as anybody in the lineup. He’s been a tough out against lefties hanging in there. He’s starting to hit the ball the other way into the gaps. You know, we all know what kind of talent he has. He’s a five-tool player if healthy. That’s been the main thing thus far.”
“Simmy’s rolling. He continues to impress. We all know about the defense, but he’s got some big hits for us, too.”
“Jonny continues to walk the tightrope. But he made the pitches when he had to and ended up getting out of the inning. I’d still like to see him string together some clean innings – no walks, no hits. But we’ll take it tonight.”