Heaney fans 10 again, but struggles with homers

June 8th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Lefty ’s first three starts this season have all played out in a similar fashion, as he’s racked up an impressive number of strikeouts, but has been hurt by two homers in each outing.

On Friday, Heaney matched a season high with 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings against the Mariners, but again served up two homers, including a three-run shot to backup catcher Tom Murphy on his final pitch of the night in a 6-2 loss in the series opener at Angel Stadium.

"He actually pitched pretty well, but the line score gets tainted because of the three-run homer on the last batter he faced," Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. "It was going to be the last hitter he faced regardless of what happened. He's giving up a few home runs, but overall, I think he's pitched well since he's come back. He's had the ability to dominate hitters. In the long haul, it should give us good results."

Heaney was solid early, retiring 11 of the first 13 batters he faced, including seven by strikeout, but he ran into trouble in the fourth after giving up a two-out single to Tim Beckham and a walk to Kyle Seager. Mac Williamson made him pay with a bloop RBI single on a 1-2 curveball that caught the bottom half of the zone.

Heaney surrendered a go-ahead solo homer to Domingo Santana with two outs in the fifth, as he was ahead in the count, 0-2, but threw a sinker right over the middle of the plate that the Mariners slugger didn’t miss it.

In the sixth, with Heaney’s pitch count starting to climb, he surrendered a lead-off single to Daniel Vogelbach and hit Beckham to put two runners on with nobody out. He retired Seager and Williamson, but remained in the game to face Murphy despite already having thrown a season-high 104 pitches. Like against Santana, Heaney got ahead 0-2, but again he threw a sinker in the heart of the zone and Murphy deposited it into the bullpen in left to end Heaney’s night after 107 pitches.

"I think I had good stuff,” Heaney said. “Just really let some stuff get away from me. In the fourth and fifth I had two outs, nobody on and let those innings continue on, creep. I give up a run in each one of those, and then start off the sixth with some trouble. Did a good job to be in the position you want to be in with two outs and an 0-2 count. It's a [tough] way to end a game, especially the turn of events, the way it goes. That was the nail in the coffin for me, for the team, for the game.”

Ausmus explained he was trying to stay away from relievers Ty Buttrey, Cam Bedrosian and Hansel Robles and that he stuck with Heaney to face Murphy despite having reliever Luis Garcia warm in the bullpen because he believed his stuff remained crisp.

"I considered it, but the last time he pitched he went 102 pitches so I was comfortable with him going 110,” Ausmus said. “He was still sharp and getting ahead of the hitters. It just didn't work out."

It spoiled another outing for Heaney, who has struck out 28 batters in 16 2/3 innings this year after missing roughly two months with left elbow inflammation. He has served up six homers, which has caused him to post a 5.40 ERA. Of Heaney's 10 runs allowed this year, nine have come via the long ball. He’s the first Angels pitcher to strike out at least eight batters in his first three starts since Nolan Ryan in 1978, but Heaney doesn't have a win to show for it.

"I feel good,” said Heaney, who induced 21 swings and misses. “I'm just getting a lot of punchouts. I don't know that I'm doing anything all that much different. Just trying to be aggressive, but sometimes that pays off in strikeouts. Sometimes it kind of gets you with the long ball. It's just something I'm going to have to work on moving forward."

Offense cold vs. Gonzales

The Angels roughed up Marco Gonzales in Seattle last week to the tune of 10 runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings, but this time they couldn't get anything going against the left-hander. Gonzales went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits.

The Angels took an early 1-0 lead on a solo shot from in the second, but didn't score again until the sixth on a two-out RBI single from pinch-hitter off reliever Cory Gearrin (with the run getting charged to Gonzales). The Mariners, though, got the run right back with Santana connecting on his second homer with a solo blast off Luis Garcia in the seventh.

"We didn't really do much against him," Ausmus said of Gonzales. "And truthfully, they pitched better, they hit better, they played better. They deserved to win."