Heaney tops Nolan Ryan, ties AL mark with 9 straight K's

Rangers lefty sets single-game club record, tallies 10 total strikeouts in bounce-back outing

April 11th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- When you start breaking Nolan Ryan records in Texas, it usually means you’re doing something right.

Rangers southpaw struggled to find the strike zone in his first start of the season against the Orioles Tuesday, but he had no trouble doing so on Monday night against the Royals, when he registered nine consecutive strikeouts from the first to fourth innings as Texas cruised to an 11-2 win at Globe Life Field.

Heaney passed Ryan in the Rangers’ record books for most consecutive strikeouts in a single game (Ryan had seven on July 7, 1991 vs. the California Angels). Heaney also surpassed Joe Barlow for most consecutive strikeouts in general (including over multiple games). Barlow did so with eight between July 24-Aug. 2, 2021. The overall record is 10 straight, accomplished by the Brewers' Corbin Burnes, the Phillies' Aaron Nola and Tom Seaver, who set the mark with the Mets in 1970.

“It's obviously really cool, you know?” Heaney said of passing Ryan. “I don't think I need to say anything more about how great Nolan Ryan was. I mean, we all know that, everybody knows that. Just being mentioned with him is extremely humbling.”

Heaney also tied the American League record for consecutive strikeouts in a single game, set by two Detroit pitchers: Tyler Alexander in 2020 and Doug Fister in 2012.

Heaney logged 10 total strikeouts, with 19 swings and misses. He is the first Rangers left-hander to log 10+ strikeouts in a game since Mike Minor had 11 against the Brewers on Aug. 11, 2019. It was also just the sixth instance in club history that a pitcher punched out 10 or more batters in five or fewer innings. 

Heaney had 17 starts with 10+ strikeouts in his career entering Monday’s outing, three of which came with the Dodgers last season.

“He was [in the zone],” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I mean, he was right tonight, wasn’t he? He had really good stuff. Good on the fastball, good secondary pitches. He had logged some pitches in that first inning, but reset and just threw a beautiful game there.

“The last couple outings have been a little tough on him, but it shows what he's made of to come back and pitch a ballgame like that.”

Rangers catcher Jonah Heim said he didn’t even notice how many hitters Heaney had struck out, much less that it was that many consecutively, but it’s obviously impressive what he was able to do on the mound.

While Heaney threw 58 fastballs, he also mixed in 23 sliders and 12 changeups as he continued to pound the zone throughout his outing. He said he felt like he needed to throw more offspeed than he normally does, hoping to “keep the hitters honest.”

According to the Royals, it worked. Both outfielder Nate Eaton and manager Matt Quatraro noted Heaney’s unique release point and how it causes almost a rising action that makes it more difficult for hitters to lay off the fastball and keep from chasing other pitches as well.

"I think he knows what he does well, and he's sticking to it,” Heim said. “We go out there with a game plan for these hitters, and he's just gonna stick to his strengths and let that work. Some of these guys are fastball hitters, but we know with his stuff, it gets guys out.

“When he executes it, it's good for him. So I think when he just throws his stuff with conviction, and uses his strengths, that’s when he’s really good.”

After struggling in his first Rangers start, Heaney emphasized that he was eager to get out on the mound and show what he could do. He notably struggled with his command throughout Spring Training, and that trend continued as he gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings against the Orioles to open his 2023 season.

After some time in bullpens with pitching coach Mike Maddux and rotation-mate Nathan Eovaldi during the Rangers’ most recent road trip to Chicago, Heaney felt better prepared both mentally and physically coming into this start.

“I was extremely ready to go,” Heaney said. “That obviously was not at all how I would draw up the first start here in Arlington. I felt like I owed it to the guys, owed it to the fans and owed it to myself to be better than what I was. … So I felt good. I felt prepared.

“It is a stark contrast between the first start and this one, so I can't sit here and say that I felt like I was gonna strike everybody out today or anything like that, but I definitely felt better about where I was and how I was feeling.”