After plenty of Braves fans had gone to bed late Monday night, Jason Heyward hit a ninth-inning home run to straightaway center field that served to underline a message his play had sent for the past week.
J-Hey is back.
He had two home runs in the 7-6 loss against San Diego, his fourth career multihomer game and first of the season. It also was his sixth multihit game in his past eight, during which he raised his average 65 points.
“Bombs — hard-hit balls,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Heyward’s homers. “He’s getting some good at-bats. Ever since he got back from the appendicitis, he’s starting to swing the bat real good.”
He still had just a .207 average entering Tuesday’s late game at San Diego. But he’s getting back his swing, after missing 3 1/2 weeks for an April 22 emergency appendectomy and then struggling in his first couple of weeks off the disabled list.
Heyward was 14-for-34 (.412) in his past eight games, with two doubles, three homers, four RBIs and a .459 on-base percentage. This after going 1-for-25 with no extra-base hits and 10 strikeouts in his previous eight games.
“Just better timing,” Heyward said. “The better your timing, the better swings you’re going to take.”
The Braves got four runs in the ninth inning on homers by Evan Gattis and Heyward to put a scare into the Padres, who had built a seemingly comfortable 7-2 lead before the ninth.
“Glad to contribute,” Heyward said. “Take some weight off other guys and produce in this lineup.”
Hitting coach Greg Walker said he never was concerned about Heyward, even with his numbers way down.
“I love where Jason’s at right now,” Walker said. “Jason’s just got one thing to work on, and that’s getting his hands to the launch position on time, to give himself enough time to swing the bat. He knows how to swing the bat, he just gets rushed and he doesn’t give himself enough time. But last year at about this time is kind of when he started getting a feel for giving himself time to do it, and he took off and did great for the rest of the year. So I’m not too worried about Jason.”
Etc.: Wednesday’s game will be the 20th in 20 days for the Braves. They have a day off Thursday before an 11-game homestand that includes a three-game series against San Francisco (starting Friday) and Milwaukee sandwiched around a five-game series against the Mets that features a June 18 split doubleheader. … Ramiro Pena was back in the lineup at third base Tuesday, after tweaking his right shoulder during Sunday’s game at Los Angeles. Pena has been sharing third-base duties lately with Chris Johnson. … Gonzalez said Gattis would catch Wednesday afternoon’s series finale.