Jason Heyward never quite lived up to the hype bestowed upon him when he joined the Atlanta Braves at the age of 20 after being hailed by none other than Hank Aaron as the club's next star.
Heyward will face his former team for the first time Friday night when his St. Louis Cardinals seek to hand the Braves a sixth straight road loss.
The slugger was a homegrown player named to the NL All-Star team as a rookie with Atlanta (45-50) in 2010. He homered in his first big league at-bat and was part of Braves teams that reached the playoffs three times in his five seasons with the club.
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Heyward, however, had four stints on the disabled list during his Braves tenure and hasn't fared well since he finished with career highs of 27 homers and 82 RBIs in 2012. New general manager John Hart traded him to St. Louis on Nov. 17 along with reliever Jordan Walden for starter Shelby Miller and a minor-leaguer.
With Heyward due $7.8 million in the final season of a two-year contract, Atlanta was concerned he would leave as a free agent after 2015. Hart said it was ''very difficult to trade Jason Heyward.''
Heyward is batting .284 with nine homers and 33 RBIs for St. Louis, which has won five of six.
The Cardinals (61-34) began this 11-game homestand with Thursday's 4-3 win over AL-best Kansas City in a makeup game. They improved to 34-12 at home ahead of this three-game set, and have taken five of their last seven at Busch Stadium against the Braves.
Matt Carpenter and Randal Grichuk drilled two-run homers Thursday while Matt Holliday reached base all four times with a double and three walks.
"We'll take those two-run homers all day long," manager Mike Matheny said.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal may not be available Friday after pitching for the third straight night and earning his 30th save to tie Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon for the major league lead. Matheny said relievers Sam Tuivailala and Kevin Siegrist weren't available Thursday.
Atlanta starts a 10-game trip seeking to avoid matching its longest road slide of the season from June 16-27. The Braves fell 3-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday and have averaged 3.0 runs while dropping eight of 11.
These teams have yet to face each other and both start rookie left-handers who will be seeing a new opponent when the Cardinals' Tim Cooney (0-0, 3.33 ERA) opposes Manny Banuelos.
Cooney pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings with season highs of seven strikeouts, four walks and 102 pitches in Sunday's 3-1, 18-inning loss to the New York Mets. Left-handed hitters are 5 for 16 against him in his five starts compared to a .234 mark for righties.
Banuelos (1-1, 1.08) will make his fourth start after yielding two runs in 4 2-3 innings in Saturday's 4-0 defeat to the Chicago Cubs. Lefties are 3 for 10 against him compared to righties batting .196.
St. Louis is 11-13 against lefty starters and bats .230 against southpaws. Atlanta is 7-9 and bats .233.