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Heyward busts out of slump, Braves win

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward jump-started the previously slumping Atlanta offense Thursday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, just like the Braves hope he will in the upcoming postseason.

Heyward smashed a leadoff homer on the first pitch he saw and was 5-for-5 with three doubles as the National League East champions gave David Hale his first major league victory by beating the Phillies 7-1 at Turner Field.

"We needed to get out and get our bats going," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Heyward made sure of that, setting career highs for hits and extra-base hits in his fifth start since missing a month with a broken jaw after being hit in the face by a pitch.

"It's good to get hits and get on base with this lineup, and get the game going early," Heyward said.

The outfielder followed the homer with three straight doubles and then had a single his final time up.

"The first couple of games back, I was trying to be a little careful," said Heyward, who had been 2-for-15 since his return. "But my aggressiveness is coming back swing wise. I'm attack the ball in the zone, and trying to get a pitch to hit and squaring it up."

The five-hit effort raised Heyward's average since his return from .133 to .350.

"I'm having fun," he said. "It's a pleasure to be back out there and I'm not taking it for granted."

The Braves (94-65) moved into a tie with Central Division leader St. Louis for the best record in the NL and home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Cardinals were idle Thursday.

Hale, from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, allowed seven hits and a run over six innings, striking out five and walking none. His ERA after two starts is 0.82.

Afterward, Hale was drenched with beer by his teammates as a reward for his first victory.

"I just wore about 35 Bud Lights on my head," he said. "It's a little cold, but it's definitely worth it."

Hale, who turns 26 on Friday, struck out nine over five scoreless innings in his debut against San Diego on Sept. 13, but received a no-decision. The right-hander allowed four hits and a walk in that game, setting a record for the most strikeouts by a Braves pitcher in his first game.

The loss was the Phillies' seventh in eight games, and they have dropped 22 of their past 28 road games.

The Braves got six hits in the first inning and batted around as Phillies rookie Tyler Cloyd (2-7) needed 41 pitches to finally retire the side. Freddie Freeman had an RBI double in the inning and so did Chris Johnson, who had been hitless in his previous 13 at-bats.

The leadoff homer was Heyward's third in 27 games batting first in the order, and he wasn't done getting things started. He doubled to open the second inning, and Cloyd was gone after Evan Gattis followed two walks with a ringing two-run double.

The loss was the fifth straight for Cloyd, who didn't get an out in the second inning. He allowed eight hits -- five for extra bases -- and seven runs, his ERA jumping to 6.37.

"I just wasn't executing," Cloyd said. "It was just bad. I wasn't executing any pitches and they were hitting the ball hard."

NOTES: Braves C Brian McCann left in the second inning with a strained right adductor muscle and was listed as day-to-day. He struck out in his only at-bat. ... Braves OF Reed Johnson, denying he threw a punch, will appeal his one-game suspension and fine for his part in Wednesday's melee with Milwaukee. He wasn't kicked out of the game. Brewers OF Carlos Gomez, whose actions after a first-inning homer touched off the hostilities, didn't appeal his suspension and sat out Thursday's game in New York against the Mets. Freeman, who was ejected, and McCann received fines. ... Braves RHP Brandon Beachy, who underwent Tommy John reconstruction 15 months ago, had arthroscopic surgery on the elbow Thursday to clear debris after having issues with tendinitis. He was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts before being shut down in late August. ... 1B Ryan Howard, who had been mostly absent from the Phillies since undergoing season-ending left knee surgery in July, rejoined the team and took part in batting practice. ... Phillies LHP Cliff Lee (14-7, 2.93 ERA) takes a 3-1 record and 2.63 ERA against the Braves this season into his fifth start against them Friday night. RHP Kris Medlen (14-12, 3.24 ERA) will pitch for the Braves.
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