Entering their first home series of the 2014 season, the Atlanta Braves have had trouble scoring runs in their two previous series. With series wins over the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals, their pitching has held up better than anyone expected, but the lack of run support and timely hitting is what is holding the Braves back in the early going.
For the team to get going, Jason Heyward absolutely has to start getting on base and getting timely hits. After the home opener against the New York Mets, Heyward is hitting for an average (.107) that is lower than B.J. Upton‘s (.138). The most troubling thing about his start is that he is third on the team in strikeouts (nine), one behind Justin Upton (10) for second place.
Granted, in his 32 plate appearances, he has put the ball in play or reached base in 21 of them. Also, while watching Heyward, it’s clear to see that he is definitely playing through some pain with his neck spasms. However, he is still stinging the ball when he gets a good pitch — it just seems to be right at someone. For example: In the bottom of the ninth inning in the home opener, with the bases loaded and two outs, he hit a ball on the nose that traveled about 380 feet, coming just to the edge of the warning track in dead center field before getting caught. Had he pulled the ball, it’s a 4-4 game.
What Heyward must do is have a more selective eye when he stands in the batter’s box. He is letting more strikes pass him by and then swinging at pitches that are easily seen to be out of the strike zone. Yes, as a leadoff hitter, he needs to see more pitches and maybe take a strike when he steps up there to see what the pitcher has to offer, but players like Heyward don’t bust out of slumps by taking 92 mph fastballs down the heart of the plate.