Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney did not win his 10th game of the 2018 season on Wednesday night.
Not that it really mattered. The Angels beat the Rangers 3-2, anyway, to complete a three-game sweep after Shohei Ohtani scorched a go-ahead solo home run into the visitors’ bullpen with one out in the eighth inning. The rookie phenom launched the Angels to their 14th victory of the season over the Rangers.
But Ohtani’s late heroics wouldn’t have been possible if Heaney hadn’t hurled a magnificent, seven-inning start to end his comeback season. He gave up two earned runs — on squared-up solo homers from Adrian Beltre and Jurickson Profar — and scattered seven hits in his 30th start of the year. He entered the third inning having thrown 40 pitches following a three-hit, three-strikeout second frame. But he settled down, needing just 60 pitches the rest of the way.
Heaney was at 84 pitches after six innings. Manager Mike Scioscia could have elected to bring in reliever Jose Alvarez, who had begun to warm up in the bottom of the sixth inning. But Heaney emerged for the seventh, pitched a perfect frame and handed the ball over for good.
After he reached the 100-pitch mark Wednesday, Heaney sauntered off the mound and wandered into the Angels clubhouse. When reporters met him at his locker, his stoic expression hardly faltered even as he acknowledged the pride he took in taking the mound for nearly every start asked of him this year.
Perhaps he was a tad disappointed that, with three games left on the books, he wouldn’t get a 31st turn on the mound.
At least he can take comfort in this: Heaney, who will not turn 28 until next June, assembled a solid case for a raise going into the 2019 season.
Heaney hadn’t put his elbow through at least 180 innings of work since he threw 184 in 2015, his first season in the Angels’ organization. He’d slotted into the Angels’ rotation as their No. 2 starter the next season. But what began as a strain of the flexor muscle in his left arm sent that 2016 campaign off the rails after one start. It eventually led Heaney to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery after follow-up MRI exams revealed damage of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. He returned to a major league mound ahead of schedule in August 2017.
Although elbow inflammation held Heaney out of the Angels’ rotation at the end of spring training, rejoined the roster on April 13 and never returned to the disabled list. As other Angels starters fell victim to injury, Heaney remained Scioscia’s only constant.
Heaney will still be searching for double-digit win totals in 2019, as he ends this season with a 9-10 record and a 4.15 earned-run average.
But logging 180 innings — and throwing at least 100 pitches in an outing for the eighth time this season — will have to be enough for now.
“I think it’s something to grow off of,” Scioscia said. “I think it’s a full season. I think for a long time, 200 innings was a benchmark. Not anymore. It’s a full season. He pitched well. I think that and the fact that he’d done it — pitched this deep into this season, this many innings and maintained his stuff — I think gives him a lot of confidence for next year that he can repeat it, start strong and finish strong and be the number one guy. He’s got that kind of stuff.”
Angels rookie reliever Ty Buttrey, a trade deadline acquisition from the Red Sox who joined the Angels bullpen in mid-August, was diagnosed with bursitis in his right knee and was shut down for what’s left of the season. He hadn’t pitched since Monday, when he blew his second lead in as many outings. Buttrey compiled a 3.31 ERA with four saves and six holds in his first 16 major league games.