Heaney's superb start not enough for Halos

April 24th, 2021

After struggling in his first start of the season against the White Sox, Angels lefty Andrew Heaney has bounced back with three straight solid outings, including a strong performance against the Astros in an eventual 5-4 loss in 10 innings on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

Heaney allowed one run on two hits over 6 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and now has a 1.53 ERA in 17 2/3 innings over his last three starts. It came after he gave up seven runs over three frames in his season debut. He has lowered his ERA from 21.00 to 4.35, but was stuck with a no-decision on Friday, as the bullpen couldn’t protect two-run leads in both the seventh and 10th innings.

"I feel really good,” Heaney said. “It felt like I was commanding all three pitches. Keeping guys off the bases. It felt good. My first one didn't go well, my second one was nice to get to alleviate a little pressure and get some confidence and now I'm just rolling with it. I like where I'm at physically, mechanically and mentally."

The lefty has made it a point to be more aggressive with his fastball and it was an important pitch for him against Houston, as he threw it 60 times out of his 101 pitches and got 10 swings and misses with the heater.

“It's such a good pitch,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It doesn't light up the gun with a large number, although I did see 95 [mph] one time. But it just reacts differently. It looks like it's a 97-mph fastball from the side. I think the hitters will tell you it looks that way, also."

Heaney gave up a one-out single to Alex Bregman in the first but didn't give up another hit until his final batter in the seventh, when Yordan Alvarez doubled with one out. He stayed strong late in the game, striking out the side in the sixth and opening the seventh with a strikeout of Bregman to give him five straight punchouts.

But after Alvarez ended his night with a double down the left-field line, reliever Aaron Slegers promptly served up a game-tying two-run homer to Yuli Gurriel. It's been an issue for the Angels all season, as their relievers have allowed 17 of 33 inherited runners to score this season.

And Heaney said he wasn’t expecting to come out of the game after Alvarez’s double, expressing some frustration after the game.

“Maybe a little bit, yeah,” Heaney said when asked if he was surprised when he was removed for Slegers.

It spoiled an otherwise impressive showing from Heaney, who was seemingly ahead in the count all night and also had good command of both his curveball and changeup. The two offspeed pitches combined for 10 called strikes and seven swinging strikes.

“He was outstanding,” Maddon said. “Everything was working. He had great command of everything. He had great tempo, good rhythm. He was really, really good. That's what we think he can look like on a consistent basis."

Closer Raisel Iglesias scuffled in the 10th and couldn’t protect a two-run lead. He gave up three hits in the inning, including a game-winning bloop single into center to Robel Garcia. It came after a controversial ground-rule double from Jason Castro that was ruled fair and upheld by replay, even though Angels fielders were adamant it was foul.

"Everything was set up perfectly, and again, we just couldn't finish it up," Maddon said. "Slegers hangs one pitch and it's a homer. And then Iglesias, it was a slow chopper to third to get the whole thing rolling for them. Castro's hit was big for them, also. And then you get the sacrifice and the little blooper."