Updated: 8/31/10 6:24 a.m.
ATLANTA (AP) — Martin Prado says Jason Heyward is the key to the Atlanta Braves’ postseason hopes.
“Like I say, if he goes, we go,” Prado said.
Heyward is recovering his power stroke just in time for the Braves’ September playoff push.
Heyward homered and drove in four runs, Prado drove in three runs and the NL East-leading Braves beat the New York Mets 9-3 on Monday night.
Prado said he knew from the start that Heyward, the rookie right fielder, would be a difference-maker for the Braves.
“Since I saw that guy in spring training, I knew he was going to be that guy who changes everything on this team,” Prado said.
Heyward had four hits, including a three-run homer off Pat Misch in the second inning. He has five homers in August after hitting only one total in June and July, when he was slowed by a thumb injury.
He missed 13 games with the injury and couldn’t start in the All-Star game.
The left thumb still bothers Heyward, but he said adjustments in his swing have contributed to his renewed power.
“It’s just becoming more comfortable with what you have and making adjustments for injuries,” Heyward said.
“When you have a hand injury, it takes away your ability to trust in what you have. … I’m staying with it and keep working. I’ve got some timing back and got some confidence back.”
Heyward is hitting .526 (10 for 19) with two homers in his five-game hitting streak.
Jair Jurrjens (6-4) gave up six hits and matched his career high with six walks, but his eight strikeouts helped him limit the Mets to three runs in 5 2-3 innings.
“To win the game you need to make clutch pitches,” Jurrjens said. “I made my clutch pitches when I needed to. They didn’t hit when they had guys in scoring position.”
The Mets stranded 12 baserunners.
“Their guy, when he needed a strike, he threw a strike,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
Jurrjens improved to 6-0 at Turner Field.
Heyward has 16 homers and 62 RBIs and is hitting .278 – his high mark since June 3. The four hits and four RBIs each matched Heyward’s career high.
Prado had two hits, including a two-run single in the sixth. Each of the first five hitters in Atlanta’s lineup had two or more hits.
One day after his homer in the bottom of the ninth capped the Braves’ 7-6 comeback win over Florida, Brian McCann padded the lead with a shot deep into the right-field seats off Oliver Perez in the seventh.
Misch (0-4) gave up eight hits and five runs in three innings for the Mets, who opened a 10-game road trip with the first of four games against the Braves.
Jurrjens gave up two hits – including Josh Thole’s run-scoring triple – and two walks in the sixth, when the Mets cut the Braves’ lead to 5-3.
Manager Bobby Cox pulled Jurrjens after the right-hander walked Luis Castillo to load the bases. Chris Carter ended the inning with a groundout against left-hander Eric O’Flaherty.
The Braves stretched the lead with three runs off Manny Acosta in the sixth. Heyward’s single drove in Rick Ankiel. Heyward scored from first on a headfirst slide across home plate on Prado’s two-run single. Omar Infante, who walked, also scored on Prado’s hit.
Heyward was running on the pitch. Still, Cox was amazed Heyward scored from first, beating Jeff Francoeur’s throw from right-center field which bounced through the infield.
“Unbelievable,” Cox said. “He can do things on the bases. His instincts are so great.”
When asked how often he has seen a player score from first on a single, Cox said “almost never.”
Heyward and Infante each scored three runs.
Angel Pagan and Luis Hernandez drove in runs in the Mets’ two-run second.
A fan in the right-field seats threw a half-empty plastic bottle near Francoeur, the former Braves’ hometown star, in the sixth.
“You never know what to expect,” Francoeur said. “I played here four years and played hard.
“A lot of people cheered me, but one bozo did that. You can boo me, but don’t throw a bottle at me. … That was classless.”Notes: The Braves had 14 hits. … Heyward also had four hits and four RBIs on Aug. 22 at the Cubs. … The Braves recalled RHP Kenshin Kawakami from Triple-A Gwinnett. The team optioned RHP Cristhian Martinez to Gwinnett. Cox said Kawakami will work out of the bullpen but could fill in as a starter. … RHP Derek Lowe plans to throw his regular side session on Tuesday. He appeared to have difficulty keeping his arm loose as he gave up six hits and five runs in three innings against Florida on Sunday. He deflected questions about his arm after the game and again on Monday.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)