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Andrew Heaney pitches a gem as Angels spoil Mike Clevinger’s Padres debut

Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney throws against the San Diego Padres.
Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney throws against the San Diego Padres on Thursday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

It was a rare game when almost everything went right for the Angels, who rode the durable arm of Andrew Heaney, a few clutch hits and some air-tight defense to a 2-0 victory over the San Diego Padres in Angel Stadium on Thursday.

Heaney, pitching more aggressively with a four-seam fastball that averaged 92.3 mph and touched 94.6 mph, allowed three hits, struck out six and walked two in seven scoreless innings against one of baseball’s best offenses, taking advantage of manager Joe Maddon’s long leash to throw a career-high 117 pitches, 77 of them fastballs.

“I don’t go into any game intimidated,” said Heaney, who improved to 3-2 with a 3.89 ERA. “They have a really good lineup — I’m not naïve to what they’ve been doing all year—but they also have a lot of guys who haven’t faced me. When I’ve got guys who haven’t faced me, I’m going to go right at them.”

Jared Walsh doubled and scored on Andrelton Simmons’ two-out single to left field in the third, and Anthony Rendon tripled and scored on Justin Upton’s single to center in the fourth. Mike Mayers retired the side in order in the eighth and Felix Pena threw a one-two-three ninth.

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Mike Trout’s 13th home run pulled him even with Nelson Cruz, Luke Voit and Fernando Tatis Jr. atop the leaderboard. He’s hitting the ball as hard as ever.

The Angels also spoiled the Padres debut of Mike Clevinger, the hard-throwing, scraggly haired right-hander who allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings, striking out two and walking one, after being acquired from Cleveland in Monday’s blockbuster seven-player trade.

It was the kind of all-around effort that would usually give a struggling team something to build on, but the Angels have been incapable of sustaining any kind of momentum. They’re 13-25 and haven’t won more than three games in a row.

“It seems like one game we play really well, and another game it’s a grind,” center fielder Mike Trout said. “Trying to find that consistency has been tough this year. It’s been a challenge.”

Trout, who turned 29 in August, is not getting any younger, and his team hasn’t gotten any better, a sobering combination for fans who fear the Angels are wasting the prime years of the three-time American League most valuable player’s career.

Despite the signing of 2019 World Series star Rendon to a seven-year, $245-million deal, the addition of several rotation and bullpen arms, a new manager and an expanded playoff field, the Angels are on course for their fifth straight losing season and sixth without a playoff berth.

“You come into spring training, you have a great team, you add some big free agents with Rendon, some guys who can help this team win …” Trout said. “Then we get shut down [by the pandemic], we come back, they expand the playoffs … to see where we’re at now, it’s definitely frustrating because we have a great team.”

Well, Trout thought they had a great team. Then Shohei Ohtani went down with another elbow injury, and most of the rotation, with the exception of Dylan Bundy, got off to a sluggish start. The bullpen isn’t nearly as deep as the Angels hoped. And the struggles of Upton, Albert Pujols and Ohtani left gaping holes in the middle of the order.

When Trout signed his 12-year, $426.5-million deal in 2019, he cited his confidence in Eppler to build a World Series-contending team among the reasons he agreed to what amounts to a lifetime contract with the Angels. Does he still believe the team is moving in that direction?

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Angels accused of failing to make $400 weekly payments to minor leaguers through the scheduled end of their season, Sept. 7.

“It’s been a tough year, obviously,” Trout said. “We definitely had higher expectations. But I got 10 more years on this contract, so we have to move forward. There’s 20-something games left. We have to try to finish strong, get some positives for next year and see how it goes.”

Short hops

Trout was named the team’s 2020 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the player who best represents the game through character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field. … The Angels placed infielder David Fletcher on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Monday, because of a left-ankle sprain, and recalled outfielder Taylor Ward from their alternate training site.

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Three takeaways on the Angels

  1. Felix Pena, who spent 2019 as a spot starter and long reliever, has emerged as a high-leverage reliever. The right-hander threw a one-two-three ninth inning for his first save since 2016 and is now 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 16 games, striking out 23 and walking four in 191/3 innings.
  2. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons helped Pena avoid trouble when he charged Felix Tatis Jr.’s leadoff grounder that nicked off Pena’s pitching hand and, after a lightning-quick glove-to-hand exchange, fired an off-balance, sidearm, 86-mph throw to first to nail the speedy Tatis.
  3. Third baseman Anthony Rendon, shifted to the shortstop spot against left-handed-hitting Mitch Moreland, raced into foul territory and made a nice sliding catch of Moreland’s popup in front of the wall behind the third-base bag to end the seventh inning.

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