(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
Philadelphia – Manager Fredi Gonzalez marveled at it during the Braves recent homestand. And it was pretty well on display last night in the series opener against the Phillies. Jason Heyward is a threat to score, simply standing on first base.
By my tally, Heyward has scored from first base five times in the Braves’ past five games. He scored the first four of those runs on doubles, but last night he managed to score from first on a single by Brian McCann which handcuffed Nate Schierhotlz in right field. Heyward was off to the races.
“We were talking about the guy scoring from first on a double, now he’s scoring from first on a base hit,” Gonzalez said after the game last night. “It was unbelievable. He played until the whistle blew. Schierholtz misplays that line drive and he gets in no man’s land there and he doesn’t stop running and he scores easy from first base.”
Heyward said he didn’t realize the ball had gotten that far away from Schierholtz.
“I’m hustling and hustling and trusting my coach after that,” Heyward said. “Once (third base coach Brian Snitker) tells me to go, I’ve got to run like heck to get home. I heard he thought he had the ball so I was able to get there a little bit easier.”
So, a rundown: Heyward scored from first on a McCann single in the seventh inning Monday night against the Phillies. He scored from first on a Chipper Jones double to left in the seventh inning Sunday against the Astros. He scored from first on a Jones double to right in the third inning on Friday night against the Astros. And he scored twice from first last Thursday against the Marlins – in the first inning on Jones’ double to left center and in the second inning on Freeman’s double to right.
This is one of those facets of the game that doesn’t really show up in the stats but it does in a manager’s mind. It’s part of why Gonzalez still feels comfortable penciling Heyward into the third spot in the Braves’ order.
Since moving him there on June 29, Heyward has hit .255 (36-for-141) with four doubles, one triple, six home runs and 17 RBIs in the third hole. He’s also stolen five bases.
Showing his combination of speed and power, Heyward also homered last night for his 18th of the season, which matched his total for his breakout rookie season in 2010. He and McCann are tied for the team lead at 18. Heyward has hit four home runs in his past 12 games.
Minor vs. Hamels
It’s Mike Minor vs. Cole Hamels tonight as the Braves try to win their eighth straight against the Phillies. If they manage to sweep this series they would match their nine-game winning streak from Aug. 15, 1996 through July 14, 1997.
Minor is 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his last five starts, including his last appearance against the Phillies July 28 when he held them to one run in eight innings of a 2-1 win.
I talked to him yesterday about coming to grips with allowing home runs and not letting them beat him, and I was reminded of something both Tom Glavine and Chipper have said about him. They’ve talked about how much of a difference it makes when a player realizes he belongs up here. Seems to me, Minor is in the process of making that realization.
“There’s a lot of pressure that goes with it,” Minor said. “Guys are really competitive and want to take my job and I understand it because I’ve been in that spot too. But it’s just how you deal with it.”
So how does he deal with it? Minor said he quit dwelling on the numbers of other pitchers who might be gunning for his job (like a Randall Delgado) and just started focusing on what he has to do to get better.
“If I perform, then it helps the team win; that’s the ultimate goal,” Minor said. “They won’t need anybody else up here if I’m winning.”
The Braves faced Hamels on July 27 in his first start after signing his $144 million, six-year extension. He was off his game that night, walking a career-high six batters, and lasted only five innings on 109 pitches. Hamels took the loss to Ben Sheets that night 6-1, after allowing five runs (three earned).
He bounced back with a quality start against the Nationals on Thursday, allowing three earned runs in seven innings, walking one and striking out nine, but still lost to the Nationals 3-0 on a combined shutout by Ross Detwiler, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard.
Hamels has given up five home runs in his past three starts, including a three-run shot to McCann on July 27.
Chipper vs. Mets and Phillies
Chipper Jones is scheduled to be back in the lineup tonight and the plan is for him to play the rest of this road trip against the Phillies and Mets. Never a good idea to rest the man against the Mets.
Actually, I was looking up his old Mets numbers yesterday and realized something: for all the hype around how well Jones hits the Mets, and rightly so, he’s been all over the Phillies for his career too.
Jones has hit .316 with 49 home runs and 157 RBIs in 237 games against the Mets in his career, including the four homers in three games in 1999 to all but assure him of the National League MVP award. But he’s also hit .335, with 48 homers and 148 RBIs against the Phillies, his highest career average against any NL East team (or any team period with 100 or more games).
Jones has hit hit .309 (58-for-188) for his career in 55 games at Citizens Bank Park, with 14 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 31 RBIs. He hit .350 (77-for-220) in 62 games at Veterans Stadium, with 16 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 38 RBIs.
As for New York, Jones hit .313 (101-for-323) in 88 games at Shea Stadium, the one he named his second-to-youngest son after. He hit 20 doubles there, one triple, 19 home runs and 55 RBIs. At Citi Field, Jones is hitting .217 in 20 games with four doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs.
Speaking of Shea, we are wishing him well in his recovery from surgery yesterday. No fun for a 7-year-old but hoping he’s back on his feet in no time.
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado 2B
3. Jason Heyward RF
4. Chipper Jones 3B
5. Freddie Freeman 1B
6. Brian McCann C
7. Reed Johnson LF
8. Paul Janish SS
9. Mike Minor P