Heyward hit a fourth-inning grand slam, the first of his career, and the Braves hung on to beat the Cubs 5-4 on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, pushing their winning streak to six games and their record to a season-high 26 games over .500.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth for his 40th save to tie the major league rookie record set last season by Neftali Feliz of Texas. Kimbrel leads the majors in saves and has a streak of 31 2/3 scoreless innings over 32 appearances since June 11.
Rookie phenoms from this season and last (Heyward) helped the Braves match their season-high winning streak.
"I'm not thinking about a record or streak, I'm just trying to help us win," said Kimbrel, who struck out Tyler Colvin with a runner at second base to end the game.
Heyward has been benched some recently and hit under .200 since May 1 before Tuesday, when he was 3-for-4 and matched a career-high with four RBIs. He's been working on trying to hit the ball to the opposite field, and that's where his slam went out -- to left-center field.
"I wasn't exactly sure when it was going to show up, but tonight's definitely a good start for that," said Heyward, who is 9-for-16 with three home runs and eight RBIs in his career at Wrigley.
He's had four RBIs four times in his career, and three of those games have come against the Cubs, including each of his past two starts in Chicago.
Coincidentally, both of those were starts by Braves rookie pitcher Mike Minor, who won Tuesday despite blowing most of a 5-0 lead when he gave up four runs (three earned) in the fifth inning.
On Aug. 22, 2010, Heyward went 4-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs against the Cubs, and Minor struck out 12 in six innings to win his third major league start.
A year and a day later, Heyward was in the lineup because hot-hitting rookie Jose Constanza sprained an ankle in Monday's series opener. Heyward had hit .197 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 70 games since May 1, but Tuesday he reminded everyone what a force he can be.
"Good for him, for his psyche and his confidence," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Good time to come out swinging. First grand slam of his career."
Heyward's two-out slam off Casey Coleman (2-6) landed in the left-center bleachers and capped a five-run inning that staked Minor to a 5-0 lead. In the Braves dugout, Chipper Jones was pleased. He's worked some recently with Heyward, trying to get him to hit to the opposite field.
"That's what he's got to do," said Jones, who also had three hits to raise his average to .282. "His first at-bat he things pull first. He finally said, you know what, I'm going to stay of everything, go the other way. And what do you know, something good happens."
Heyward said, "It's not easy when you're not playing every day. But I understand the situation we have at hand. I want to win games. I want to go to the playoffs and I want to experience that again. We want to go as far as possible.
Heyward slam fuels Braves' 5-4 win against Cubs
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Aug 24