Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/25/13
In the club's first visit to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, the Braves won their second game in a row, holding off the Royals 4-3 in a thriller. Craig Kimbrel came in to close the game in the ninth inning, but he walked the leadoff batter and gave up a hit to put runners on first and third with no outs. Then he struck out two and loaded the bases with an intentional walk of Alex Gordon, who was batting .390 with two outs. Kimbrel escaped the jam when Alcides Escobar popped up an inside fastball to shallow right field. Here are Three Cuts from the Braves' 12th one-run victory of the season. 1. Jason Heyward hit it hard, finally. After a less-than-spectacular early half of the season, Heyward is finally swinging the bat with authority. He went 2-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBI. He also reached base in the ninth when he was hit by a pitch. Heyward's double in the fifth inning gave the Braves their first lead at 2-1. He scored later that inning to make put the Braves ahead 3-1. In the seventh, with the score tied 3-3, Heyward faced left-handed reliever Tim Collins, who had given up just eight hits to left-handers in 27 innings of work. But Heyward remained patient and took advantage of a hanging curveball on an 0-2 count. The ball rocketed off his bat and over the wall in right-center, almost landing in the decorative waterfall behind the lower-level seats. The homer put the Braves up for good 4-3. Although Heyward's batting average is still just .216 -- the third worst among Braves starters behind Dan Uggla (.196) and B.J. Upton (.177) -- he's improving as the season rolls on. Heyward went 8-for-58 (.121) in April, and hit .178 in May. His average in June is .287 with a .437 slugging percentage. The Braves still need better production, but if this trajectory continues after the All-Star break, manager Fredi Gonzalez will be very happy with his right fielder. 2. Kris Medlen was good throughout and great when he needed to be. Some were better than others, but Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen (5-7) threw only two bad pitches all night. Both came in the fifth inning -- and both cost him. The first was a breaking ball that didnt break on a 2-2 count to Escobar. That resulted in a two-out single that brought Eric Hosmer to the plate. Four pitches later, with a 2-1 count, Medlen threw a chest-high fastball over the middle of the plate. Hosmer smacked it over the wall in right-center to score two runs and tie the game at 3-3. After that, Medlen worked 2 13 near flawless innings to earn his fifth win of the season to go with a 3.02 ERA. And while its hard to read too much into one outing, a comeback win in a strange ballpark could provide the confidence boost he needs for the second half of the season. 3. The Braves still dont manufacture runs. To a hammer everything looks like a nail, and to a slugging team every pitch looks like a meatball. That can be a problem when youre playing in a cavernous ballpark like Kauffman Stadium where finesse and placement are often more effective than brute force. The Braves dont manufacture many runs in the classic sense. The clubs big hitters dont bunt very often and you dont see a lot of workmanlike sacrifice flies. When a runner is on base, more often than not this lineup swings away. Sometimes that works, as it did in the fifth inning against Ervin Santana. The Braves scored three runs after Chris Johnson, Jordan Schafer and Heyward all hit hard doubles with an Andrelton Simmons single squeezed in between. Sometimes the swing-away strategy doesnt work, like in the fourth inning when Justin Upton led off with a double and Freddie Freeman drew a walk. With two men on and nobody out, Brian McCann took a big cut and hit a pop fly to left. Then B.J. Upton took some solid cuts before grounding to the shortstop for a fielders choice. Uggla ended the Braves half of the inning with a grounder to the pitcher. No one even faked a bunt. Gonzalez consistently talks about this Braves club being built for power with every at-bat representing a potential home run. That is true, but sometimes moving a runner from second to third is more important than letting your sluggers swing away. This club hasnt needed to craft many runs the old fashioned way so far, but at some point down the stretch the Braves will need to creatively manufacture a few. When that day comes, fans will have to wonder how they will do given their hammer-and-nail mindset so far.
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