Angels Manager Mike Scioscia gave his critics plenty of ammunition Friday night, pulling starter Andrew Heaney after six scoreless innings, only to have rookie reliever Trevor Gott give up three seventh-inning runs in a 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Upon further review, the move was not overly ripe for second-guessing.
Heaney, 24, had never thrown more than 100 pitches in a big league game, and all 88 of the pitches he threw Friday night came with no score or a 1-0 lead, as the struggling Angels' offense gave him no margin for error.
Heaney gave up a one-out double in the second inning and leadoff doubles in the fourth and sixth, yet wriggled out of each jam with help from a stout defense that featured several outstanding plays by shortstop Erick Aybar.
And the hard-throwing Gott, who locked down the seventh-inning role before the All-Star break, was fresh and had given up only one earned run in 19 innings of his previous 18 appearances for an 0.47 ERA.
"I understand the move," said Heaney, who rebounded strongly from last Saturday's loss to Toronto in which he gave up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. "We have great seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning guys to come in and get it done. For me, it's not a question of my stuff. It's about how good those guys are in the bullpen."
How much did Heaney, who also gave up a single in the sixth before getting Yan Gomes to fly to right with two on to end the inning, have left?
"That's a tough question," he said. "You don't give up hits and runs because you don't have stuff in the tank. You give them up because you make mistakes or mental errors. … I had multiple runners on in the last couple of innings. I had to work out of jams. I didn't breeze through the last inning or anything like that."
Gott opened the seventh by losing a nine-pitch battle with Lonnie Chisenhall, who walked. Jose Ramirez popped up a bunt that third baseman Kaleb Cowart nearly caught with a dive. Cowart recovered in time to throw to second for the force.
Abraham Almonte smacked a first-pitch, run-scoring double to left-center field, wiping out the lead the Angels built on Cowart's two-out, RBI single in the fifth. Jason Kipnis rolled an RBI single to center, Francisco Lindor flied to left, and Michael Brantley walked on four pitches.
Scioscia pulled Gott in favor of left-hander Jose Alvarez, who gave up a run-scoring single to Carlos Santana, and the Indians were on their way to their sixth win in seven games. The Angels fell 1 1/2 games behind Texas for the second wild-card spot.
"I fell behind in some counts, and they did what they're supposed to do," Gott said. "When I fall behind, I have to throw a strike, and it's usually going to be a fastball. I think they know that, and they put some good swings on them tonight."
Heaney has thrown 150 2/3 innings between triple-A Salt Lake and the Angels this season, and he will soon pass his career-high of 166 1/3 innings. Though the Angels are closely monitoring Heaney's workload in his first extended major league stint, that wasn't a factor in Scioscia's decision to pull him Friday night.
"Andrew might have had another handful of pitches or another hitter or two, but he wasn't quite as crisp in the fifth and sixth innings," Scioscia said. "Trevor is throwing the ball well. It made sense to bring him in with a clean inning as opposed to having one or two guys on base. Unfortunately, it didn't work out."
Right-hander Garrett Richards (12-10, 3.80 ERA) will oppose Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber (8-13, 3.43 ERA) at Progressive Field on Saturday at 4 p.m. PDT. TV: FS West; Radio: 710, 830, 1330.