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Heaney fans 8 in 'outstanding' season debut

Halos come up with another rally; Pena clutch in the 8th
@RhettBollinger
May 26, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Left-hander Andrew Heaney’s season debut was an encouraging one and the Angels rallied for six runs in the seventh inning to come away with a 7-6 win -- and a series victory -- over the Rangers on Sunday at Angel Stadium. It was the second straight come-from-behind win

ANAHEIM -- Left-hander Andrew Heaney’s season debut was an encouraging one and the Angels rallied for six runs in the seventh inning to come away with a 7-6 win -- and a series victory -- over the Rangers on Sunday at Angel Stadium.

It was the second straight come-from-behind win for the Angels after their walk-off victory on Saturday night, and the Halos are hopeful it’ll turn the momentum in their favor after shaking off a five-game losing streak.

“It was awesome," Heaney said. "I don’t believe in all the win probability stuff, but being down 5-1 in the seventh, I doubt that we had that high of one."

Box score

Here’s a deeper look at Heaney’s outing, the comeback and how the bullpen usage could affect their next series against the A’s that begins Monday.

Heaney’s solid outing

Heaney, who had been out with left elbow inflammation suffered during Spring Training, struck out eight over five strong innings and only gave up two hits -- but they were both solo homers. Staked to a 1-0 lead in the first after Mike Trout connected on his 12th homer of the year, he retired the first nine batters he faced.

However, Heaney gave up a solo shot to Shin-Soo Choo on a 2-1 sinker to open the fourth, and two batters later, he served up another solo blast to Hunter Pence on a 3-0 sinker. Those were the only two blemishes on an otherwise strong showing from Heaney, who registered 15 swings and misses, including 12 with his sinker. He was on a limited pitch count, so he was removed after five innings with 85 pitches.

“It was a good feeling,” Heaney said. “I think I would’ve liked to have pitched a little bit deeper. A little bit more pitch efficient. Sometimes that’s how it goes. Trying to keep them off the board. For the most part, I made good pitches. It was one pitch really. Choo was the one mistake.”

The Angels have to be pleased with where Heaney is at, as he struck out 10 in his lone rehab outing with Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday and showed flashes of dominance against Texas. His velocity was also solid, with his sinker reaching 95.1 mph and averaging 92.3 mph, which is above his season average of 92 mph last year. Heaney led the team with 30 starts last season, posting a 4.15 ERA with 180 strikeouts in 180 innings, and they’re going to need to lean on him again going forward.

“He was outstanding," Halos manager Brad Ausmus said. "Starting pitching is such a big part of a baseball team’s ability to win games, and he makes our starting pitching better."

The rally

Reliever Taylor Cole gave up three runs (two earned) in the sixth, but the Angels rallied for six runs in the seventh, as the Rangers make several sloppy defensive plays. Luis Rengifo came through with a key two-run single on a ball that had an exit velocity of just 62.2 mph to get the scoring started.

Trout delivered a big blow with an RBI double down the left-field line, before Shohei Ohtani plated Tommy La Stella with a sacrifice fly to center -- a throwing error by Danny Santana also allowed Trout to reach third. After Kole Calhoun was intentionally walked, the error loomed large, as both Trout and Calhoun scored on wild pitches from reliever Kyle Dowdy.

“It was great,” Ausmus said. “We were down and had to come back and find a way to score. There were a couple of wild pitches, but you have to take advantage of opportunities, and that’s what we did there.”

Pena, Anderson close the door

The Halos surprisingly turned to right-hander Felix Peña for the eighth despite being the club’s scheduled starter on Monday. Pena pitched around a leadoff walk and an error to strike out three in a row, but he will now see his next outing pushed back at least a few days.

Ausmus said they haven’t decided who will start Monday, but right-hander Trevor Cahill is the most likely pitcher to see his start moved up a day to start on normal rest.

With Ty Buttrey, Cam Bedrosian and closer Hansel Robles all unavailable, Justin Anderson was called on to close, and he came through despite giving up an RBI double after Ronald Guzman reached on a strikeout and a wild pitch. His biggest out was striking out Hunter Pence with a runner at third and one out. Anderson was then able to get Nomar Mazara to ground out to end the game for his first save.

“It's a huge momentum shift,” Anderson said. “We got that walk-off [win] last night on that little Texas Leaguer, whatever. You need wins like that. Today we came back in the seventh, just put up those runs. That was awesome.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.