Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/20/12
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Jason Heyward has teased and taunted us with his talent for more than two years. He can hit home runs that are tracked on radar. He can outrun line drives to his left, right, in front of him or over his head. He can throw out any runner at any base. He can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, but his jumping ability and long arms have been known to snare balls destined for the seats. And his left-handed swing is so smooth and perfect that it should be one of the natural wonders of the world. Sometimes Heyward manages to harness all his tools and innate ability and puts together a performance that leaves our jaws on the floor. Sometimes he wows us with his immense skill set and makes the game look so easy, you wonder why he can't do it every night. That's exactly what Heyward did on Tuesday. Forget about his early base-running blunder, there's no way the Braves snap the Yankees' 10-game winning streak without Heyward's legs, bat and arm. "He can change the game in so many different ways. Offensively, defensively and on the base paths, and he did that today," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after the Braves' 4-3 victory on Tuesday. "Heyward had super at-bats." He did much more than that. Heyward hit a third-inning triple into the right-field corner and scored the Braves' first run. He quickly fielded Nick Swisher's single to right and pegged out Mark Teixeira trying to score from second with the game tied at 3-3 in the fifth. He compounded Teixeira's problems when he blasted a liner off his foot that ricocheted more than 90 feet and allowed Brian McCann to score with the Braves' last and the deciding run in the sixth. All that atoned for Heyward's only transgression. He was thrown out at third trying to advance on Andrelton Simmons' fourth-inning single. He was tagged for the third out before Chipper Jones could hobble in from second to score on the hit. It cost the Braves a run. Heyward got it back the next inning when he threw out Teixeira. "He shows flashes of greatness every now and again," Braves starter Tim Hudson said. "He shows you what he can do. Defensively, he's been awesome. He covers a lot of ground out there. He's got a great arm and he's been coming up with a lot of big hits for us lately. It's nice to see." Heyward's all-around strong game is a snapshot of what he's capable of doing, and typical of his performance this month. Forget June swoon, it's a June boon. Heyward is hitting .340 this month, raising his average from .233 at the end of May to .258. He's added two home runs and eight RBIs in June and is on pace to finish this season with more than 20 home runs and 20 steals. "About the last five days to a week, he's probably swung the bat as well as anybody in the lineup," Jones said after the game. "He's been a tough out against lefties, hanging in there. He's starting to hit the ball the other way into the gaps. We all know what kind of talent he has. He's a five-tool player if healthy. That's been the main thing thus far." Heyward missed 34 games last year with a shoulder injury that caused him to pick up bad habits and played havoc with his swing. Just like that, there was a tool missing from his workbench. He worked on his mechanics and sweated off about 20 pounds in the offseason in order to develop the promise he displayed in his fine rookie season of 2010. And earlier this year, Nationals rookie Bryce Harper hustled to second base when Heyward casually fielded what looked like a routine single to right. But Heyward has played well since, excelling in every facet of the game. He's been one of this month's bright spots for the Braves, who have won two of their past nine games, but are only 3 games behind the Nationals in the NL East. "All I can do is show up every day, try to go out there and compete, have some fun and try to contribute every night," Heyward said. The Braves will take that. Especially if leads to more games like this one.
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