On a back-and-forth night in Kansas City, one decisive swing of the bat from Jason Heyward made all the difference.
Heyward smacked a 1-out, go-ahead home run off of Tim Collins in the 7th inning to give the Braves a 4-3 lead that they would never relinquish. It was the 2nd RBI hit of the day for Heyward (he previously had an RBI double in the 5th), who finished the game with a 2-for-4 mark, but this swing was particularly significant, and not just for the obvious game-clinching reason.
The blast was the first from Heyward off of a left-hander pitcher since September 7th, 2012 (not a misprint), and for good measure, it was the first home run by a left-hander against KC’s Tim Collins for the entirety of the 2013 season. I can’t emphasize how important/impressive this at-bat from Heyward was, and it is snapshots like this that remind everyone of just how scary good he can eventually be.
Elsewhere on the offense, Jordan Schafer had another positive night in the lead-off spot. Schafer has been scorching hot in recent days, as he followed up his 4-hit performance on Sunday with a 2-for-4 night against Ervin Santana and company. The left-fielder (playing in the stead of Justin Upton, who was DH’ing) also stole a base for Atlanta, and once again, proved to be an extremely valuable and resilient piece despite the incredibly small price (i.e. waiver claim) that Frank Wren paid to acquire him.
Kris Medlen was his now-usual self, with a solid, yet unspectacular performance on Tuesday night. Medlen completed 7 innings, but allowed 7 hits, 3 runs, and a walk during the night, and made one big mistake. That “one” mistake has seemed to plague Medlen in most of his recent starts, and on this night, it was a two-seam fastball that he left up in the zone to Royals’ uber-prospect Eric Hosmer. Alas, it was a “quality start” for Medlen, and he gave the team a chance to win that came through when the offense capitalized.
Medlen, with the aforementioned assist to Heyward, handed over the 1-run lead to the bullpen, and it was smooth sailing from there. Jordan Walden allowed a lead-off walk to the speedy Alcides Escobar, but he pitched his way out of it with three straight outs. He was followed by the normally invincible Craig Kimbrel, who made things a little bit too interesting in the 9th inning. Kimbrel also issued a leadoff walk and a single that placed runners on 1st and 3rd before picking up two crucial strikeouts of Elliot Johnson and Jarrod Dyson before retiring Alcides Escobar on a lazy flyball to right field to end the game.
It is incredibly reassuring to see the Braves take care of business against a beatable opponent, and that was the case here. Not every win is a blowout, but a big-time hit coupled with quality pitching can go a long way, and Atlanta is halfway to a two-game sweep of the Royals. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s action (8:10 PM ET) as the Braves are led on the mound by Mike Minor.