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Braves RF Heyward thriving in leadoff spot

Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) follows through on a swing against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Braves won 5-2. (USA TODAY Sports: Joe Camporeale)

Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) follows through on a swing against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Braves won 5-2. (USA TODAY Sports: Joe Camporeale)

PHOENIX — Right fielder Jason Heyward is a relative newcomer to hitting leadoff, but he has taken to it like an old hand.

Heyward was 4-for-14 with two home runs and five RBIs in Atlanta’s three-game weekend series at Chase Field. And if imposing is what you are looking for in the leadoff spot, Heyward — at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds — is your man.

“Every day he gets one hit, a couple of hits,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s our best option, and he may be a good option on a lot of teams. I’m sure there are a lot of guys who run the bases a lot prettier, but when you punch in 6-5, 245, and if you run it like he runs it … I love to watch him run. I almost don’t want him to steal a bag so I can see somebody hit a double and watch him score.

“You punch that into equation. You say ‘Wow.’”

Heyward has hit leadoff in all of his 59 starts this year after getting started there last season, when he spent 30 games at the top of the order. Sunday was his 100th game hitting first.

Heyward has gained 120 percentage points on his batting average since April 19 and is hitting .256 with seven homers and 22 RBIs. He also is tied for the team lead with nine stolen bases.

“He can hit the ball out of the ball park. He can get on base. He can steal you a bag. He can score from first on a double,” Gonzalez said. “He can do a lot of good stuff from there.”

Heyward credits a not-be-greedy approach at the plate.

“Just let them (opposing pitchers) dictate where I hit it,” Heyward said. “Not trying to pull. Not try to go the other way. Just try to be on time and not miss the good ones to hit. It’s not going to happen every time, but the more times I do it right, good for me.”