The Braves have been a profoundly different offensive team with Jason Heyward in the leadoff role and rookie pitcher David Hale had to be pleased to see Heyward’s name atop the lineup Thursday against the Phillies.

Heyward had a career-high five hits including a home run and three doubles and Hale won his first decision in his second major league start with six strong innings in a 7-1 series-opening win for the Braves at Turner Field which pulled them even with St. Louis for the National League’s best record.
“It was amazing especially to do it here at home” said Hale who had a couple of dozen cans of beer poured over his head by teammates in celebration of his first win. “All of us since the day we knew what baseball was dreamed of this moment.”

The Braves hope it wasn’t a costly win as Brian McCann left in the second inning with a strained right adductor muscle (near the groin). The All-Star catcher was listed as day-to-day and McCann and the Braves didn’t believe the the injury to be serious and said he should be back no later than the start of postseason play Thursday in the division series.

Heyward had a career-high four extra-base hits before the end of the fifth inning and added a two-out infield single in the seventh inning for the first five-hit game by a Brave since Chipper Jones did it July 3 2012.

“It’s really nice to be back out there with my teammates having fun playing the game and getting back in the groove” said Heyward who went 5-for-5 beat out an infield hit slid head-first on a double and generally showed no lingering signs of rust or hesitation from the broken jaw that sidelined him 30 days until he came off the disabled list Friday on the road against the Cubs.

“The timing’s been pretty good” he said. “I felt like the first few games I was trying to be a little careful. The aggressiveness is coming back swing-wise really attacking the ball in the zone. Just trying to get good pitches to hit and square them up.”

The Braves’ magic number to clinch home-field advantage for one division series was reduced to one against the Dodgers pending the outcome of their late game against the Giants. One more Dodgers loss or Braves win would assure the Braves have home-field advantage if they play the Dodgers in the first round.

But the East Division champion Braves are vying for the NL’s best record and top seed which would mean a division series against the winner of the Wild Card game rather than the West champion Dodgers.