ATLANTA — Jason Heyward’s impact in his return from a thumb injury was lost in the boxscore.
Heyward was hitless in four at-bats in his first game with Atlanta since June 26, but the rookie’s lead role on the field was unmistakable.
Two standout plays by Heyward in right field helped Jair Jurrjens give up only one run, and the Braves beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on Thursday night.
“Defense wins games and defense allows good things to happen,” Heyward said.
Martin Prado and Chipper Jones hit home runs in the third inning off Dave Bush (4-7).
Corey Hart’s 22nd homer gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead in the first inning. It was the only run allowed by Jurrjens, who gave up five hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings.
Jurrjens (2-3) earned his second win in three starts since returning from a hamstring injury. Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save.
The first-place Braves began the night four games ahead of the Mets in the NL East.
Heyward was voted to start in Tuesday’s All-Star game but could only watch as he remained disabled with a left thumb injury. He came off the 15-day disabled list against the Brewers and delivered two great defensive plays. Milwaukee’s Casey McGehee was the victim on each play.
McGehee led off the second with a single. Jim Edmonds followed with a single to right, and Heyward threw out McGehee at third base. Heyward’s strong throw to Jones beat McGehee by such a wide margin that McGehee made no apparent attempt to touch the bag on his wide slide.
In the fourth, Heyward smashed into the right-field wall after making a running catch to rob McGehee of a hit. The impact near the foul line knocked Heyward to his back on the warning track, where he remained as Braves manager Bobby Cox and assistant trainer Jim Lovell hurried out of the dugout.
Heyward said he was ready when Cox and Lovell, joined by umpire Joe West, made it to the outfield corner.
“I just started telling them my name; I knew where they were going (to ask questions),” he said.
Fans applauded as Heyward remained in the game. He said he remained on his back for a minute because he didn’t think it would be smart to stand up too quickly.
Braves manager Bobby Cox said the two plays “may have won us the ball game.”
Jurrjens said he had no doubt.
“He won the game,” Jurrjens said of Heyward. “He made a really awesome throw.”
Brewers manager Ken Macha called McGehee’s attempt to advance to third base “ill-advised.”
“One of the cardinal rules of baseball is you don’t make the first out at third base,” Macha said.
Macha had praise for Heyward’s defense.
“He definitely has a good arm,” Macha said. “And that was a fine catch he made.”
Alex Gonzalez, acquired in Wednesday’s five-player trade that sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto, had a walk and a double in his debut with the Braves.
Bush allowed no more than two earned runs for his sixth straight start. He allowed seven hits and two runs in six innings.
“It was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Macha said. “(Atlanta’s) pitching is pretty good, both their starters and their bullpen.”
Bush had too little support as the Brewers had only six hits.
“We just couldn’t find the holes tonight,” said Rickie Weeks, who was 0-for-4.
“It’s unfortunate, when you consider how well he has pitched, we haven’t been able to put up some runs for him.”
Bush gave up more than one homer in a game for the first time since April 25, when he gave up four homers in 3 2-3 innings in a 12-2 loss to the Cubs.
The temperature for the first pitch was 90 degrees. Many in the crowd of 35,057 fanned themselves through the hot night.
NOTES: RHP LaTroy Hawkins (right shoulder) began a rehab assignment in Arizona with the Brewers’ rookie team. The Brewers are pointing to a July 26-28 home series against Cincinnati for Hawkins’ possible return. ... The Braves placed LHP Eric O’Flaherty on the 15-day disabled list with a viral infection. The move is retroactive to July 10. LHP Mike Dunn was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. ... SS Brandon Hicks was optioned to Gwinnett to clear a roster spot for Heyward.