Heaney's bad fortune against Rays continues

April 3rd, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- seems to always face the Tampa Bay Rays at their very best. And when the left-hander took the mound at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, that trend continued, as the Rangers fell, 5-2, to the Rays to even the three-game set.

A Heaney-led team has never beaten the Rays on the days he starts (0-7). In those seven starts, he has a 3.68 ERA, but his teams have a minus-30 run differential.

On Tuesday, though, Heaney pitched much better than the score showed, even as he got the hook with two outs in the fifth inning at 90 pitches (60 strikes).

“I felt good early, but just felt like I threw just a couple mistakes, two-strike pitches, and just had kind of some pitch inefficiency,” Heaney said. “With the pitch count early in the year, I just need to be a little bit better about that, but I felt good.”

The first run came with one out in the third inning, when a bouncing grounder from Yandy Díaz deflected off his glove just out of the reach of second baseman Marcus Semien and into the outfield, allowing José Caballero to score from second.

Heaney then pitched a 1-2-3 fourth and logged two strikeouts in the fifth before things fell apart. A fairly routine pop fly should have ended the inning there, as the ball flew off the bat of Díaz behind first base between Semien, first baseman Jared Walsh and right fielder Adolis García.

Walsh called for the ball, and he appeared to have corralled it, but it popped in and out of his glove for an error.

“He just dropped it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It's a tough place to catch popups, especially as far as he went. He felt horrible. Trust me. It happens, and we couldn't pick him up though. And that's what you try to do. We can break this down, but he got to it -- and he'll tell you -- he's so good over there. He just dropped it. It's just one of those things.”

A full-count single by Harold Ramírez ended Heaney’s day, and the Rays scored four runs when reliever Yerry Rodríguez allowed an RBI single to Randy Arozarena and a three-run homer to Isaac Paredes. Heaney was charged with only one earned run out of the three he allowed.

“There was an error, but then I got to face another batter, and I didn’t put him away with two strikes,” Heaney said. “I didn't do it. I understand it. It’s not my job to question it. My job is to go out and get people out. I didn't do that. It's part of baseball. I’ve got to do a better job when I get two strikes, and I’ve got to put them away and make a better pitch.”

Despite getting handed the loss, Heaney was also charged with multiple unearned runs for the first time since Aug. 18, 2022, at Milwaukee.

Heaney’s 18 swings and misses were his most in an outing since June 3, 2023, vs. Seattle. It was his third most since joining the Rangers last season. Since the beginning of 2022, only two other left-handed pitchers have recorded 18 or more swings and misses against the Rays: San Diego’s Blake Snell (June 17, 2023) and the Yankees’ Carlos Rodón (Aug. 27, 2023).

“I was really happy with how he threw the ball,” Bochy said. “Good stuff, good command, and he just ran out of pitches at the end there. It was his first start out, I think he was around 90 pitches. So I was pleased with him. It was a terrific job. We just couldn't get some runs for him.”

The real struggle for the Rangers came on the offensive end, as Tampa Bay starter Zach Eflin cruised through 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

The Rangers finally got on the board in the seventh inning after a García double, a Walsh single and an RBI single by Jonah Heim. By the end of the night, Texas had the same number of hits as Tampa Bay (seven), and it brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth after another RBI single by Heim. But it couldn't quite finish off a comeback effort when Leody Taveras flied out to left.

"It starts with the guy on the mound, and Eflin was good tonight, he was really good,” Bochy said. “He was getting it where he wanted and had a good curveball going with that. So we had our work cut out for us. But Andrew, he did a really nice job. We battled back. We showed a lot of fight. It was a tough game, but we ran into a well-pitched game.”