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Andrew Heaney’s early woes doom Angels in loss to Athletics

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney works against the Oakland Athletics.
Angels starter Andrew Heaney ran into trouble early during a 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

When Andrew Heaney was named the Angels’ opening day starter in March, and then again last month, manager Joe Maddon was excited to watch him blossom.

Heaney was healthy — something the left-hander couldn’t boast about during an injury-plagued 2019 — and had proved himself capable of putting together encouraging streaks.

In his sixth start of the season Friday, Heaney failed to meet expectations. Again. Heaney’s earned-run average ballooned to 5.52 in the Angels’ 5-3 loss to the American League West-leading Oakland Athletics.

A few hours after departing the game, Heaney sat in front of an iPad for a videoconference. His answers were succinct, none more than six words long.

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“I gotta be better,” said Heaney, who has given up 14 earned runs in his last 14 innings.

Heaney was off at the beginning. He dangled a fastball over the plate to the first batter he saw and Marcus Semien punished it, launching the ball 419 feet to center.

Anthony Rendon sees similarities between the struggles the Angels are experiencing and the adversity the Nationals faced before winning the World Series.

By Heaney’s 10th pitch, coach Mickey Callaway had seen enough to pay an early visit. The conversation didn’t settle Heaney. He gave up a double to Matt Chapman. Shortly, Stephen Piscotty scorched Heaney’s middle-of-the-zone changeup to the left-field wall. Two runs scored on the second double off Heaney in the inning.

Heaney doesn’t typically allow early damage. Opponents scored against him in the first inning in seven of 30 starts in 2018 and in three of 18 starts in ’19. He hadn’t allowed a first-inning run in five starts this year.

Heaney eventually settled — he declined to speak about his adjustments with a short, “I don’t want to talk about it” — until Mark Canha split the gap in left-center field for a two-out double in the fifth inning. Matt Olson followed with a double over the left shoulder of left fielder Brian Goodwin. Canha scored, increasing Oakland’s lead to 4-1 and ending Heaney’s night. Reliever Mike Mayers entered and promptly gave up an RBI single to Piscotty.

Five of the six hits Heaney allowed in 4-2/3 innings went for extra bases. He was charged with five runs. Relievers allowed the Angels to end a streak of eight straight games allowing at least six runs.

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Highlights from the Angels’ 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Friday.

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Luck broke in the Angels’ direction in the sixth inning. Anthony Bemboom, Andrelton Simmons and David Fletcher loaded the bases. With one out, Mike Trout slapped Oakland reliever J.B. Wendelken’s high fastball toward the right side of the infield, his bat splitting as first baseman Olson dived and deflected the ball. Trout reached safely and two runs scored, cutting the deficit to 5-3.

The Angels put a runner on in each of the next three innings but failed to advance a single one. They went hitless in six at-bats with the tying run at the plate.

“We gotta get clicking on all cylinders,” Maddon said. “Overall, pitching was better tonight. I thought the way Andrew started out, obviously a little bit shaky, but then he righted himself. The big inning for me was when they scored two with two outs and nobody on [in the fifth]. That was the part that bothered me, because we put ourselves in pretty good position at that point. That obviously was the difference in the game.”

Heaney was asked to describe the morale of the team after losing eight of the last nine games. “It sucks,” he said. “Losing sucks.”

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Stassi’s rare injury

Catcher Max Stassi will be out a few weeks. He was placed on the injured list because of a right knee bruise and right quadriceps strain, both sustained on one sequence in Thursday’s game.

A pitch thrown by reliever Matt Andriese found Stassi’s knee in the second inning. Stassi immediately left the game. An MRI exam Friday morning revealed the injury was more complex than the bruise with which he originally was diagnosed.

“The impact was so big and came straight on […] the tendon,” on inside part of his right knee, Stassi said. “The trainer said that they’ve never really seen that.”

The heavily favored Dodgers’ reward for winning an eighth straight division title would be negligible, especially if the playoffs are held in a neutral bubble.

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Stassi was one of the bright spots in the first two weeks, going eight for 24 with four homers in 10 games, three more than he hit in 132 at-bats last season.

He cooled off over his next eight games. He had three singles in his last 21 at-bats before the injury.

Shortstop Simmons took Stassi’s place on the active roster and played in his first game since spraining his ankle July 27. Simmons hit two singles in his three at-bats against Oakland starter Mike Fiers.

Three takeaways

  • Fiers threw a fastball 4.74 feet off the ground in the fifth inning, which was at eye level for a crouching David Fletcher at the plate. Anyone else would have let the pitch go. But Fletcher took a hack and got a double out of it. The ball bounced sharply out of the infield and dribbled into the right-field corner. It was Fletcher’s 18th hit in a two-strike count.
  • Anthony Rendon logged his fifth consecutive multi-hit game and second straight game with at least three hits. Since his average dropped to .103 on Aug. 9, Rendon has batted .524 (22 for 42) with 12 RBIs.
  • With Rendon at first base, Albert Pujols smacked a double to left field in the fourth inning. The low-hit ball bounced off the foul-line chalk and traveled only 208 feet from the plate, not far enough for third base coach Brian Butterfield to send Rendon home. The stop sign cost Pujols a chance to drive in the 2,087th run of his career and take ownership of third place on the all-time RBIs list.

Torres reported from Los Angeles.


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