Remember a few hours ago when we brought you the news that Jason Heyward was hit in the face by a pitch from Jonathon Niese of the New York Mets? Well, the news isn't good for Atlanta's right fielder, as the plunking fractured his jaw and will cost him four to six weeks.
Heyward has been a major reason for Atlanta's 23-8 record in the second half. Since the All-Star Break, Heyward has hit .323/407/.566 with six homers in 28 games after homering just seven times in his first 66 games of the year. His .419 wOBA and 172 wRC+ in the second half lead the team, and his six homers are tied with Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla for second behind Justin Upton and his seven longballs.
In a bit of fortunate news for Atlanta, they're running away with the NL East and might actually end up clinching the division in the next three weeks, so Heyward's injury likely won't end up costing them a playoff berth. But with Dan Uggla already on the DL following LASIK surgery, BJ Upton still struggling with the stick, and Evan Gattis' magic with the bat disappearing, the Braves offense might feature some new faces leading into the postseason. The elder Upton was already beginning to lose playing time to Jordan Schafer, but Heyward's injury will likely end up getting him back into the every day lineup more often along with giving some at bats to Gattis and youngster Joey Terdoslavich. The Braves have been making due with Paul Janish and rookie Phil Gosselin at second with Uggla out, but newly claimed Elliot Johnson could also get some playing time in the upcoming weeks for Atlanta.
Heyward and the Braves should feel lucky that a broken jaw is the extent of his injuries. If that ball hits him a couple of inches higher, we could be dealing with a concussion and/or a cracked skull, which could have ended Heyward's playoff season as well. At any rate, the Braves are going to be without several major pieces heading into this weekend's four game series in St Louis, their toughest series remaining prior to the playoffs.