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After playoff debut, Heyward looks forward

After playoff debut, Heyward looks forward

SAN FRANCISCO -- The comparisons to legend Hank Aaron have trailed rookie Jason Heyward all season.

It started with manager Bobby Cox evoking Aaron's name when asked about his phenom outfielder early in Spring Training. And the list of similarities -- both right fielders, both 20 years old at the time of their debuts, both Southern born and bred -- have only since increased.

But now, as Heyward looks to extend his first postseason experience at least beyond a Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Giants, he can only hope that his first taste of the playoffs follows a similar script to Aaron's.

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Heyward had to wait a mere 186 days after making his first Major League appearance to get a taste of postseason play, though he would have preferred to script that debut -- which ended 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts -- a bit differently on Thursday.

Aaron likely felt the same way after waiting four seasons to make his playoff debut, which came in a World Series matchup against the Yankees on Oct. 2, 1957. In four at-bats, Aaron recorded only a single. The Milwaukee Braves dropped the contest, 3-1, as opposing pitcher Whitey Ford hurled a complete game.

Yet from there, Aaron went on a tear. Over the next six games, he combined for 10 hits and 24 at-bats. He drove in seven, went deep three times and celebrated a World Series championship with his teammates after a Game 7 victory.

Heyward has downplayed those early comparisons to Aaron all season. But if the right fielder is looking for a time to give them some weight, this would be it.

"Just come out tomorrow and take care of tomorrow's game -- that's all we can do," Heyward said after Atlanta's stinging 1-0 loss to the Giants in Game 1 on Thursday. "Tonight is in the past. We have to take care of tomorrow."

Heyward was one of four Atlanta starters to strike out at least twice against Tim Lincecum, who set a Giants postseason record with 14.

It marked just the fourth time in Heyward's last 25 games that he has endured a multistrikeout game, but even that couldn't entirely mar the satisfaction of another Major League first.

"It was great, a lot of fun," Heyward said, when asked of his first postseason experience. "It was a battle the whole way through, and I enjoyed it. For me, no nerves. There was a comfortable feeling. It wasn't hard to get loose at all. We got out there and if you blinked, I believe you might have missed the game."

All comparisons to Aaron aside, Heyward's track record would suggest that he's due to rebound on Friday. Since coming back from a thumb injury on July 15, the rookie outfielder has gone hitless in consecutive games only twice.

"This is what the last two weeks have been like for me, going through the National League East and trying to get a playoff spot," Heyward said. "It was nothing different."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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