Andrew Heaney did not join the Angels until June, but he has been their best starting pitcher this season. Whether your measure is ERA, FIP, OPS+, WHIP, home-run ratio or strikeout-to-walk ratio, Heaney leads the Angels’ starters.
In his last start, the rookie left-hander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. If the Angels had to pick one pitcher they would want to start in the showdown against the Houston Astros -- the three-game series starts Monday in Houston -- Heaney would be the guy.
The Astros lead the Angels by 2 1/2 games for the final wild-card spot in the American League. And did we mention the Astros are one game under .500 against left-handers, nine games above .500 against right-handers?
The Angels had lined up right-hander Jered Weaver (1.71 ERA in three starts vs. Houston this year) to start Monday, followed by left-hander Hector Santiago (1.40 ERA in three starts vs. Houston this year) and Heaney on Wednesday.
The Angels cannot afford to lose the series, because that would leave them 3 1/2 back of the Astros with 10 games to play, and with the possibility that the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians could pass them in the standings.
Now, however, Heaney is not scheduled to start the series finale. He was supposed to start last Friday, but the game was rained out, delaying his start to Saturday. The Angels say he won’t start against Houston on short rest Wednesday, and they plan to use rookie right-hander Nick Tropeano.
Tropeano has started four games since the All-Star break, the last on Sept. 15. His ERA in those games: 6.86.
If Tropeano can get through five innings, the Angels can hand the game to the relief corps ... which just lost its most reliable setup man.