Heyward set to return to the foreign land of Turner Field
As we count down the hours before Jason Heyward returns to the Braves lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Dodgers, can somebody please kindly remind me how to get from Sandy Springs to Turner Field?
The Braves have played just six home games since Heyward was placed on the disabled list after undergoing an appendectomy on April 22. Forgive the players if they felt like they were in foreign territory as they mulled around their Atlanta-area homes during Thursday’s offday. They had spent 28 of the previous 38 days on the road.
With a quarter (40 of 162 games) of this season complete, the Braves have already complete a third of the road portion (26 of 81) of their schedule. Despite losing 13 of the last 19 games they have played outside of Atlanta, they stand as just one of five National League teams to have a .500 record or better on the road this year. The Cardinals, Pirates and D-backs are the only NL teams who have won more than half of their road games.
After the Braves completed their most recent 10-game trip with consecutive losses to the D-backs, manager Fredi Gonzalez said it did not feel like his club had lost two of three in Arizona.
The Braves matched a season-high total for runs in Monday night’s 10-1 win over the D-backs and then did not take advantage of Patrick Corbin’s five walks or Arizona’s leaky bullpen in Tuesday’s shutout loss. During Wednesday’s defeat, Atlanta stranded a season-high 12 runners, chased Ian Kennedy after five innings and allowed Heath Bell to convert his second save opportunity in less than 24 hours.
After being lifeless during the final three games of last weekend’s series in San Francisco, the Braves offense did show some signs of life in two of the three games played in Arizona. Now with Heyward’s return, we might actually start to see why there was so much optimism surrounding this lineup entering this year.
Tonight’s series opener against the Dodgers will serve as the first game in which the Braves’ lineup has been at full strength. Brian McCann will be playing his first home game of the year and Heyward will be playing his first game since April 20, which was three days before Freddie Freeman was activated from the disabled list.
Freeman and Heyward were in the same lineup for just five games before Freeman strained an oblique muscle and missed two weeks.
Heyward hit just .121 with two home runs and a .519 OPS in the 17 games he played before going on the disabled list. But his mere presence makes this lineup much more formidable.
Still this might not be the most best night for the Braves to add another left-handed bat to their lineup. The Dodgers are scheduled to start Hyun-jin Ryu, who has limited left-handed hitters to a .189 batting average and .268 on-base percentage. Right-handed hitters have compiled a .260 batting average and .307 on-base percentage against the South Korean southpaw.
The Dodgers’ NL leading .303 batting average against left-handed pitchers could also be put to the test tonight against Paul Maholm, who leads all NL pitchers with the .118 batting average he has allowed against left-handed hitters.
If Maholm can extend this successful trend, he could neutralize the left-handed trio of Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. But he’ll still obviously have to deal with the always-dangerous Matt Kemp, who has just .203 (15-for-74) with three home runs in the 21 games he has played against the Braves dating back to the start of the 2010 season.