Heyward’s five hits power Braves

The Braves found the solution for their September slump —

Phillies rookie Tyler Cloyd.

Jason Heyward’s leadoff home run sparked a five-run first inning

and the Braves shook off what has been a chilly September at the

plate with a 7-1 win over the Phillies on Thursday night.

“It is good to get hits,” said Heyward, who had a career-high

five, including three doubles. “Good to get on base and get the

game going early. We are still playing for something.”

The win pulled the Braves even with the idle Cardinals at 94-65

for the best record in the National League with three games to

play. The Braves won the season-series against the Cardinals and

would win the NL’s No. 1 seed if the teams finish tied.

“It is a big spot,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’ll

try to win tomorrow and keep guys healthy at the same time.”

Braves catcher Bryan McCann left the game in the second inning

with an adductor strain. After the game, Gonzalez said he thinks

McCann will be OK and wanted to avoid having something small get

worse.

After scoring just three runs in a three-game series loss to the

Brewers, the Braves entered Thursday averaging 3.3 runs per game in

September. They surpassed that in just six batters against the

Phillies when Chris Johnson doubled home Evan Gattis to give the

Braves a 4-0 lead in the first.

Braves rookie David Hale (1-0) picked up his first win in his

second career start, going six innings while giving up one run and

striking out five. The right-hander allowed six base runners in the

first three innings, but settled down after that and cruised to the

win. In two starts since getting called up from Triple-A, Hale has

given up one run in 11 innings.

“It is amazing, especially to (get my first win) at home,” said

Hale, who grew up in nearby Marietta. “I was a little more relaxed,

but still nervous. I just kept the ball down and it turned out all

right.”

Cloyd (2-7) had been struggling, surrendering 17 runs in 13

innings in his previous three September starts, and the

right-hander did not see a turnaround against the Braves. He gave

up seven runs on eight hits and did not retire any of the first

four batters in the second inning before being pulled.

“It was just bad. I wasn’t executing any pitches and they were

hitting the ball hard,” Cloyd said. “I wouldn’t say nothing was

working, but everything was where they could hit it.”

The decisive first began with Heyward’s home run on Cloyd’s

first pitch of the night. Elliot Johnson followed with a single,

and Freddie Freeman doubled him home. Gattis then hit an RBI

single, and scored on Chris Johnson’s double. Jordan Schafer

brought in the final run of the frame with an RBI single.

Gattis ended Cloyd’s night with a two-run double in the second

that scored Heyward and Elliot Johnson.

“Cloyd had a hard time with his first-pitch strikes and also had

trouble with two strikes,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.

“They were still able to barrel balls up pretty good and before you

know it, it was 7-0.”

Jimmy Rollins went 3 for 4 for the Phillies, who have lost seven

of eight.

NOTES: Injured Braves starter Brandon Beachy had arthroscopic

surgery on his right elbow on Thursday. Gonzalez said Beachy should

be ready to return by the first couple of weeks of spring training.

… Gonzalez is undecided on his fourth starter for the upcoming

NLDS. He is choosing between Freddy Garcia and Paul Malhom.

Gonzalez thought both pitchers pitched well this week and said it

will be a tough decision. … Injured Phillies first baseman Ryan

Howard was at Turner Field, re-joining the team from Clearwater,

Fla., where he had been rehabbing his left knee. Howard said it was

important to him to finish the season with his teammates. “I just

wanted to watch and cheer these guys on the rest of the way and

hopefully try to end things on a good note and head into 2014 on a

high.” … The Braves have matched their 94 wins from 2012, when

they earned a wild card spot.