Jason Heyward is batting lead-off again for the Braves.
Heyward began the season at the top of the order before B.J. Upton took over with little success. With the offense still scuffling, manager Fredi Gonzalez is going back to Heyward at the top of the order starting with tonight’s game against the Dodgers.
Heyward, who last hit lead-off on June 17, recently said he’s comfortable hitting fifth in the lineup.
“We are going to try it for a while,” Gonzalez said. “Maybe add some spark, maybe add some energy up there and get us going a little bit. I talked to Jason about it yesterday afternoon and he was great. He’s a pro. He will do whatever it takes for us to win. He brings it every night.”
Heyward has hit lead-off in 68 games this season (311 plate appearances) with a .254 average, .334 on-base percentage and a .384 slugging percentage. In 43 games and 179 plate appearances in the No. 5 hole Heyward’s numbers are .292/.385/.396.
Heyward’s batting surge in 2013 coincided with his move from No. 1 to No. 2 in the order. But he’s also on a roll this season while batting fifth.
In the last 78 games Heyward is hitting .295 (87-for-295) with 22 extra-base hits, a .378 on-base percentage and a .427 slugging percentage. In the past 25 games he’s batting .363 (33-for-91) with eight extra-base hits, a .422 OBP and a .484 slugging percentage.
“I think he can be successful everywhere in the order,” Gonzalez said. “You look at his splits and where he hits in the batting order he’s pretty darn good anywhere. “
Upton has hit eighth in the lineup in four of his last six starts, including tonight, as Gonzalez tried utility man Emilio Benifacio in the No. 1 hole. Upton has hit lead-off in 36 games (165 plate appearances) this season while batting.220 with a .282 on-base percentage and .327 slugging percentage.
Moving Heyward to the top of the lineup means Gonzalez may have to move second baseman Tommy La Stella down in the order when he returns from a day off on Thursday. Otherwise, the Braves would have lefties batting one-two-three: Heyward, La Stella and Freddie Freeman.
“I have to figure out how many lefties you want in a row,” Gonzalez said. “Tommy does a nice job handling left-handers and Freeman does a good job handling left-handers but it just makes it so damn easy for the opposing manager to use one pitcher for three guys. And everybody has a left-handed specialist (in the bullpen).: