Heyward shows off five tools, cools off Yanks

Heyward shows off five tools, cools off Yanks

Heyward shows off five tools, cools off Yanks
NEW YORK -- After watching Jason Heyward make steady progress throughout the winter and during Spring Training, Braves hitting coach Greg Walker stressed the need to remain patient. Walker knew Heyward would encounter some more struggles while also occasionally enjoying special nights like this.

Heyward enjoyed one of his most impressive performances of the season while helping the Braves snap a three-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the previously red-hot Yankees on Tuesday night. Along with displaying his speed, he showed off his powerful arm and literally hurt Mark Teixeira with his potent bat.

"He can change a game so many different ways," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Offensively, defensively, on the basepaths, and he did today."

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Heyward's scorching liner off Teixeira's left heel with two outs in the sixth inning proved to be the decisive blow as the Braves won for just the second time in their past nine games and prevented the Yankees from recording an 11th consecutive win for the first time since 1985.

This was an evening filled with some crazy twists and turns for the Braves, who scored two runs in the top half of the fourth inning to claim a lead that was erased when Freddie Freeman and Chipper Jones committed costly errors that led to Tim Hudson throwing 38 pitches in the bottom half of the frame.

Still, by the end of the game, the Braves had reason to be satisfied with their defensive effort. Jones fielded Teixeira's ground ball and made an accurate throw to the plate after the Yankees had put runners at second and third with one out against Jonny Venters in the seventh.

But the most impressive defensive contribution was made by Heyward, who quickly reacted to Nick Swisher's two-out, fifth-inning single before unleashing a strong throw to catcher Brian McCann, who tagged Teixeira before he crossed the plate with what would have been the go-ahead run.

"Right there, it was a do-or-die situation," Heyward said. "That's what you want to do. You want to put yourself in position to make that throw on a ball hit in front of you."

Along with making an accurate throw, Heyward quickly reacted to the single Swisher notched after Hudson had convinced Gonzalez that his left ankle, which has been bothered by bone chips, was strong enough for him to finish the inning.

"That's the best throw I've seen him make under pressure," Jones said. "He swung the bat, too. He got us kick-started early and put the icing on the cake late."

The Braves grabbed the lead for good after McCann opened the sixth inning with a double and moved to third base on a Freeman groundout. This put him in position to score uncontested when Heyward turned on Hiroki Kuroda's first-pitch curveball and laced a liner that drilled Teixeira's left heel before flying toward the second-base bag.

Heyward had also delivered a leadoff triple that allowed the Braves to score their first run off Kuroda in the third inning. With this two-hit performance, the 22-year-old outfielder has batted .356 (16-for-45) in his past 13 games.

"Jason, for the past five days to a week, has probably swung the bat as well as anybody in the lineup," Jones said. "He's been a tough out against lefties, hanging in there. He's hit the ball the other way into the gaps. We all know what kind of talent he has. He's a five-tool player if healthy. That's been the main thing so far."

The fourth inning was a crazy one for Jones, as he delivered a game-tying two-out double off Kuroda and later attempted to score from second on an Andrelton Simmons bases-loaded single that gave the Braves a brief lead. But home-plate umpire Greg Gibson correctly ruled he did not cross the plate before Heyward was tagged out sliding into third base.

In the bottom half of the inning, Jones felt helpless when he was unable to snag Russell Martin's two-out liner. This error, combined with Freeman's inability to cleanly field Ibanez's one-out grounder, led to a game-tying unearned run.

After the 38-pitch fourth inning influenced the fact that Hudson was lifted after five innings, Chad Durbin, Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel combined to keep the Yankees scoreless and preserve the multiple contributions Heyward provided.

"He shows flashes of greatness every now and again," Hudson said. "He shows what he can do. Defensively, he's been awesome. He covers a lot of ground out there and has a great arm. He's been coming up with some really big hits for us lately. It's nice to see."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.