Blood spewed onto Andrew Heaney’s uniform when he threw the first pitch of his second inning of 2016, and he promptly motioned for a trainer to emerge from the Angels dugout.
It was an inauspicious beginning to Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, just as the Angels’ 6-1 loss, coupled with a defeat Monday, marked an inauspicious beginning to their season.
For Heaney, it was only a fierce nosebleed. Trainer Adam Nevala stuffed cotton into Heaney’s left nostril, and the 24-year-old left-hander finished the inning without issue. In the third inning, though, he struggled, and although he said the bleeding barely affected him, Manager Mike Scioscia connected the dots.
“It would have to be a little bit of a distraction,” Scioscia said. “I thought Andrew really gutted up. It’s not easy to pitch when you have cotton up there.”
The inning began with a home run by reserve outfielder Matt Szczur, who was playing on a Joe Maddon hunch because of his Villanova roots.
Starter Jon Lester’s personal catcher, David Ross, followed with a double and Dexter Fowler singled.
Then, for the second consecutive night, Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella made a solid defensive play, stopping a Jason Heyward grounder from reaching the outfield. A run still scored, but Giavotella got an out.
Two batters later, Anthony Rizzo drove a knee-high sinker 410 feet to center field for a two-run home run.
Heaney gave up only two singles the rest of his six-inning stint, but the bludgeoning had been done. He struck out seven batters and didn’t walk any.
In the third inning, the Angels strung together consecutive singles by Carlos Perez and Giavotella, but Yunel Escobar and Craig Gentry made outs to end the threat.
In the sixth inning, Escobar and Gentry worked together to score the team’s first run of 2016.
Escobar doubled into the right-field corner, and Gentry singled through to left fied to drive in Escobar.
It was the Angels’ 50th plate appearance of the season, and they did nothing else of note in their subsequent dozen Tuesday.
In the two-game series against the Cubs, they mustered only five singles, two doubles and one walk.
They were ready to dismiss it as a function of the sport and a product of the Cubs’ tandem of aces, Lester and Monday starter Jake Arrieta.
“I think if you look up the definition of a small sample in the dictionary, you’re going to find these two games,” Scioscia said. “You always like the challenge and the litmus test of facing the starters we’re facing. Unfortunately, we didn’t fare very well.”
In relief of Heaney, Mike Morin yielded a single to Szczur and a line-drive home run to Fowler.
In the series, Fowler amassed nine total bases, one short of the number produced by the entire Angel roster.
Left-hander Jose Alvarez replaced Morin and struck out Heyward and Kris Bryant consecutively. He then began the next inning by retiring Rizzo.
The lone intrigue remaining came in the eighth inning, when, after Escobar reached base on an error, the teams’ managers made corresponding moves.
Mike Scioscia pinch-hit for left fielder Gentry with his platoon-mate Daniel Nava, as Cubs right-hander Trevor Cahill was on the mound. Maddon then brought in left-hander Travis Wood, forcing Scioscia to burn his backup catcher, Geovany Soto.
Asked before the game about matching wits with Scioscia, Maddon had noted the two men did nothing of the sort during Monday’s season opener, when Arrieta overpowered the Angels, 9-0.
On Tuesday night, after all the back and forth, Soto popped out on the second pitch he saw.