Angels bullpen bails out Andrew Heaney after worst start of season

Angels bullpen bails out Andrew Heaney after worst start of season
Angels starter Andrew Heaney is hoping to avoid ligament-replacement surgery in his left elbow. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

It was a festive night for the Angels, as Mike Trout celebrated his 24th birthday with a home run, the bottom two batters in the order chipped in four RBIs and the team gained another game of separation from the Orioles squad chasing them for a wild-card spot.

For everyone connected to the Angels, it was a good game. Well, all save one. For Andrew Heaney, it was the worst night he's had all season.


Heaney, who was called up June 24 and became the first Angels rookie pitcher to go six-plus innings and give up two or fewer runs in his first five starts, was far off that form Friday. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs and 10 hits, both season highs.

"Not a very good one," Heaney said when asked what grade he would give himself for the night. "It wasn't a great night. … Obviously happy to get a win, but not happy with how I threw."

He gave up two home runs, as well as a double, and never really seemed completely in control on the mound, according to Manager Mike Scioscia.

The problem was command, Heaney said. Because he was unable to locate his fastball early in the game, he couldn't effectively throw his off-speed pitches.

"Hard to throw change-ups when you're not throwing strikes, when you're constantly behind," Heaney said. "Threw a couple good breaking balls here and there, but for the most part, never really got the chance to throw it."

Scioscia did give Heaney credit for battling to keep the Angels within striking distance, and Heaney in turn expressed gratitude for the offensive outburst in the bottom of the sixth that put him in line for the win, as well as the strong defense behind him.

Kole Calhoun and Trout both made pivotal plays to prevent a tough third inning for Heaney from blowing up.

When Gerardo Parra laced a ground ball single into right field, Nolan Reimold, starting at first, tried to make it all the way to third, only for Calhoun to beat him with a sharp, accurate throw.

Trout did him one better at the end of the inning, as Adam Jones hit a ball in the gap that scored Parra. Jones tried to advance to second, but Trout, who cut the ball off, had him beat by several steps for an easy out to end the inning.

"Defense behind me was amazing tonight," Heaney said. "They bailed me out of a lot of situations."

And it wasn't only the defense that helped Heaney out. The Angels bullpen strung together 3 1/3 scoreless innings to settle things down and secure the win. While top relievers like Huston Street and Joe Smith had the night off, Scioscia turned to Fernando Salas, Jose Alvarez, Trevor Gott and Cory Rasmus, and praised them after the game for their performance.

Salas, who came in to finish off the sixth with men on second and third, allowed 75% of inherited runners to score last season, and had given up three runs in his last 1 2/3 innings pitched over three outings. Yet on Friday, he survived an error by Johnny Giavotella, who dropped a foul ball along the first-base line that should have ended the inning, and struck out Reimold to end the scoring threat.

Gott pitched 1 2/3 perfect innings Friday, extending a recent stretch of dominance that includes six straight scoreless appearances spanning 6 1/3 innings.