Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 5/17/12
Jason Heyward smiles when he thinks back to one particular at-bat on Sunday. Its a memory he doesnt mind reliving. The Braves and Cardinals were scoreless when Heyward came to the plate in the third inning with the bases full of his teammates. There were two outs, so he expected St. Louis starter Lance Lynn to put the ball over the plate. I knew he had to come to me, Heyward said. Heyward worked the count until it was full. Lynn threw another strike, and that time, Heyward lashed a double into the right field corner, driving in all three runners and giving the Braves a three-run lead in a game that they would win 7-4 to sweep the Cardinals. He was in a situation right there with the bases loaded, Heyward said. He didnt want to walk a run in. You want to make a guy make a pitch you can hit. And thats what happened. He had no choice. Thats part of the philosophy the Braves have adopted this year, especially with runners on base. They want to force pitchers to throw a lot of pitches and they want be patient. But they also want to aggressively jump on the right pitch, if and when it comes their way. After watching the Braves hit a dismal .195 with the bases loaded in 2011 next to last in the majors -- manager Fredi Gonzalez placed an emphasis on situational hitting when he interviewed hitting coaches in the offseason. New hires Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher then spent spring training stressing the importance of what he calls competitive at-bats at all times, not just with runners on base. They also implemented daily drills, repeatedly working with the hitters on what they need to do with the bat depending on the situation. We brought it to the attention of the club, Gonzalez said. That was one of the things we spoke about in spring training. I think its a mindset. I really do. And I think its contagious with the team. The result: The Braves are hitting .311 with the bases loaded this season, sixth in the majors. Theyve also improved their hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP) from .249 in 2011 to .257, a number that dropped after they went 1-for-9 in Wednesdays 8-4 loss to the Marlins. The Braves also fourth in the majors in runs scored from the seventh inning and beyond with 63. The big thing about situational hitting is that we want you to be a smart hitter and we want you to compete, Walker said. But the big thing is we want you to want the at-bat. I want the at-bat. I want to have it. If you fail, the next guy is going to pick you up. This team has done a great job of picking each other up. Heywards bases-loaded double was just another in a line of big hits the Braves have delivered in clutch situations. Gonzalez could think of only one game Joe Blantons complete-game three-hitter in the Phillies 4-0 win on May 3 where the Braves didnt have competitive at-bats. Not surprising, the resurgence has been led by the rejuvenated Chipper Jones, who is hitting .344 with RISP. Jones and Dan Uggla lead the Braves with 19 RBIs in those situations, but Martin Prado is hitting .333 with 15 RBIs and Freddie Freeman has driven in 18 runs with RISP. Its just a better approach than in the past, said Brian McCann, who has a grand slam and 16 RBIs with RISP in 2012. Ive been here for seven years, and theres been times where weve led the league with runners in scoring position, and there are times when were not so good. I just think every years different, and this year were putting together better at-bats than in years past. Not surprising, the clutch hitting has provided a boost to the overall offense. The Braves are third in the majors in scoring with 200 runs they were 22nd last year -- and fourth in hitting at .270, after finishing at .242 in 2011, 26th out of 30 teams. Freeman pointed out that the Braves also had Michael Bourn for only half of last season and that Heyward, Uggla, Jones, McCann and Prado all struggled through either subpar or injury-filled years. We had a lot of guys who didnt play like they wanted to last year, Freeman said. Everybody is playing like they normally can right now, so the numbers are going to be different than last year. Heyward had another two-out RBI in Tuesdays 6-2 victory over the Reds and the Braves were 4-for-10 with RISP, bouncing back after going hitless in five chances in Mondays 3-1 loss to Cincinnati. We try to stay simple. We try not to do too much, Heyward said. We want to win and go immediately and take that at-bat, take that responsibility. We try to relax and try to go up there and put together the best AB. If we dont get it done, hopefully the next guy will get it done.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Joe Mauer: Concussions blurred vision, affected hitting

LeBron James says Kevin Love-Celtics trade rumor is false

Michael Jordan gifts Kobe Bryant full set of Air Jordans

Bethune-Cookman football player killed at party

Former UFC heavyweight Kevin Randleman dead at 44

WATCH: Chelsea scores three goals in less than 20 minutes

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Broncos safety Shiloh Keo arrested for DUI

Mountain West admits error, says Boise St. shot was good

WATCH: John Calipari loses his mind, gets ejected

Former Clemson star Tajh Boyd to speak at John Kasich rally

Peyton Manning's alleged not-so-wholesome image

Hawks not shopping Al Horford at NBA trade deadline

Drake has Kentucky edition of custom ‘OVO’ Air Jordan 8s

QUIZ: Name every NBA All-Star Game MVP

Watch rare footage of Stephen Curry from 2001-02 emerges

Check out this custom camouflage Oregon helmet

Ejected John Calipari tweets “they don’t need me and I love it”

Popovich would 'buy ticket' to watch Warriors play

Jamal Murray destroyed South Carolina defender with dunk

WATCH: Lon Kruger gets Oklahoma hoops squad hype for Kansas test

Texas signee glad he didn’t pick Texas A&M after alleged racism

Dallas Stars have passed the early tests in February

Could Matt Forte become the revival for Patriots run game?

Are the Celtics legimate contenders in the East?

WATCH: Jabari Parker is no joke at NBA Rising Stars Challenge

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker