CLEARWATER, Fla. – Jason Heyward’s towering first-inning leadoff home run extended his streak to six hits (including two homers) in six consecutive plate appearances, and started the Braves toward their best overall game of the spring in an 8-1 win Monday against the Phillies.
Dan Uggla added a long two-run homer, second-base prospect Tommy La Stella had a two-run double off closer Jonathan Papelbon, and the Braves got two hits apiece from B.J. Upton, Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson for their third win in 15 Grapefruit League games.
Heyward unloaded on the second pitch of the game from Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, driving it over the right-field fence and also over a second chain-link fence atop a berm some 30 feet beyond the outfield.
“That’s stuff Jason can do right there – a 6-foot-5 guy who can lead off the game with a home run, or a double, or he can walk and steal you a base,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “When he stays healthy and stays on the field he always puts up good numbers.”
Heyward hit .254 with 14 homers and a .359 on-base percentage in 104 games last season, missing a month early after an emergency appendectomy, and missing another month late – including most of September — after having his jaw broken when hit by a fastball from Mets lefty Jon Niese.
“Last year it wasn’t his fault, neither of the injuries,” Gonzalez said. “You get appendicitis and then you get a broken jaw and miss significant time. But if he stays on the field, he could put up some big numbers.
Uggla, who had been 1-for-6 with three strikeouts and a walk in his previous two games, went 1-for-2 with a walk and his first homer of the spring Monday. He drove a pitch from lefty Mario Hollands onto the thatched roof of Frenchy’s tiki hit bar-restaurant beyond left field.