by Stu Matthews, Angels Nation managing editor
Angels manager Joe Maddon is delighted every day as he watches his starting staff — dismissed as a thin, underwhelming unit by many in the media — rack up inning after inning of quality work in the Arizona desert.
It’s hard to remember the last time an Angel starter had a bad outing.
On Thursday, it was veteran southpaw Andrew Heaney’s turn, and Heaney carved up the Milwaukee Brewers with five scoreless innings in a 3-2 Angels victory at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
After walking the opening hitter, Heaney struck out the next three Brewers and didn’t allow a base hit until the fifth inning — and Heaney himself erased that runner by spearing a line drive and throwing to first.
“Everything we’ve been talking about,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said, “he brought it out there today. He was strong.”
Heaney said the key for him was getting a lot of Milwaukee hitters to swing through on his fastball.
“If you’re not getting hard contact on the fastball, that makes things a lot easier — opens things up,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work with my breaking ball, and I’m feeling good with that.
“And the changeup was a little weird today — but in a good way. When I have all three pitches working and I’m comfortable out there, that’s generally going to lead to a good game.”
The ‘Brief Breakdown’:
Pitching: Other than Heaney, lefty Patrick Sandoval allowed a homer for one run in two innings, striking out two. Sandoval has allowed four runs in 10 innings this spring with 13 strikeouts and eight walks. In a B Game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, top pitching prospect Reid Detmers “pitched really well,” Maddon said.
Batters: Left fielder Justin Upton used some hustle and small ball to score the game’s first run. He ripped a single to left, then went all the way to third on a pickoff throw that went errant, and scored on a groundout by Juan Lagares.
Slow-starting Mike Trout is 5-for-21 after picking up a hit w7en he ripped a shot a Brewers shortstop Luis Urias, who made a poor throw to first. In the seventh inning, Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward drove in runs to cap the game’s scoring.
Talking points: Right fielder Dexter Fowler is off to a very slow start and was sent to get extra work in the B game against the Diamondbacks. But Maddon said there’s no plan yet to have the hot-hitting Lagares open the season in right instead of Fowler.
“Don’t get me wrong — I like Lagares a lot,” Maddon said. “I think he’s going to be quite a find for us, but Dexter is here for a reason.”
The Angels are 10-6 with two ties this spring. And while the games and wins are meaningless, Maddon said he prefers to win. “That means we’re playing the game the right way.”
On Friday: Angels right-hander Dylan Bundy takes on the Kansas City Royals and right-hander Brady Singer at Surprise Stadium. 1pm PST.