As Rangers add arms, Heaney makes statement start

August 2nd, 2023

ARLINGTON -- Left-hander pitched like someone who has no intentions of leaving the Rangers’ rotation any time soon.

Heaney turned in one of his best starts of the season on Tuesday night, throwing six-plus scoreless innings with a season-high 11 strikeouts to lead the Rangers to a 2-0 victory over the White Sox at Globe Life Field. The game lasted just one hour and 58 minutes.

If Heaney continues to deliver those types of outings, he won’t have to worry about his spot. As manager Bruce Bochy noted, it appeared that Heaney wanted to send a message as the organization faces rotation decisions after adding Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery at the Trade Deadline.

“I don’t know if that was the case tonight, but it certainly looked like it, didn’t it?” Bochy said. “He really answered the bell and threw a great game.”

Heaney dominated from the start, striking out the side in the first inning. He retired nine straight hitters before giving up a leadoff single to Tim Anderson in the fourth. Heaney promptly responded with a second stretch of nine straight outs, which got him to the seventh inning. His night ended there when he allowed a leadoff single to Yoán Moncada.

Even though Heaney had thrown only 80 pitches, Bochy felt like it was time to turn to the bullpen with Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters coming up. Luis Robert Jr., the No. 3 hitter, had sent a deep fly ball that Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras tracked down in front of the center-field wall in his previous at-bat in the fourth inning.

“One-run game,” Bochy said. “We had the ‘pen fresh, ready to go, so that’s why I went and got him.”

Heaney made his deepest start since throwing seven innings vs. Baltimore on May 27. He also became just the third pitcher in Rangers history to allow two hits or fewer and no walks while striking out at least 11 batters, joining Yu Darvish (April 2, 2013) and Matt Perisho (Oct. 3, 1999).

For Heaney, it’s been a progression to this point. In his last start, in Houston on Wednesday, he bounced back from a three-run first inning with four scoreless frames. He felt he moved forward after that game with a good bullpen session in San Diego, then carried that into his gem against Chicago.

“At different times this year, I’ve felt like I’ve sort of been a two-pitch pitcher,” Heaney said. “I felt like tonight I had all three going. That’s a lineup that has given me trouble in the past, so [I’m] happy to go out there and give us six good innings and let the bullpen take over.”

As far as the competition for rotation spots with new arms coming in, Heaney felt the message was more about the front office believing in what the team has accomplished to this point and can accomplish the rest of the way. However, he acknowledged that the staff hasn’t pitched as well in the past month as it did early on.

“As a starting group, we haven’t been as good this last month as we were at the beginning of the season. We understand that,” Heaney said. “That’s part of the game. There are going to be ebbs and flows. Sometimes we talk about hitting being contagious; pitching is contagious too. Good and bad. Sometimes it can be like that.

“I’m not going to read too much into who’s coming over, just the fact that they believe in us and we’re adding. Everybody in there feels it.”

Heaney certainly provided contagious pitching for the right reasons on Tuesday. His 11 strikeouts paved the way for the Rangers' staff to set a season high with 16 K's. Josh Sborz struck out one in a scoreless seventh, Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the eighth and Will Smith picked up one more strikeout in the ninth.

“You pair really good stuff with an aggressive team, and that’s the result,” said Rangers catcher Mitch Garver, who produced the game’s first run with a solo shot in the fifth inning. “It started off with Andrew having 11.”