The Los Angeles Angels had a real opportunity on Thursday to avoid a sweep to the Tampa Bay Rays and break their losing streak before a three-game set against the L.A. Dodgers. This was in large part thanks to an incredible outing by Andrew Heaney, who carried the Angels for over two-thirds of the game.
In 6.2 IP, Heaney allowed just four hits and a walk, giving up zero runs and striking out 10 batters in the process. When he was removed — after throwing 110 pitches — the Angels held a 3-0 lead thanks to a Phil Gosselin RBI double and a Shohei Ohtani two-run home run.
Mike Mayers was the first bullpen arm to replace Heaney. He gave up a solo home run in the seventh before getting the final out there, then gave up two runs in the eighth before recording an out. Aaron Slegers came in next, allowing Mayers’ inherited runner to score and giving up two runs of his own. Then, Felix Pena made his 2021 debut, only to give up two more runs.
What was a 3-0 lead in the top of the seventh became an 8-3 deficit by the bottom of the eighth. Heaney — while understandably frustrated — said that pitching struggles are just a part of the game, according to Daniel Guerrero of MLB.com:
“I mean, there’s been plenty of times to myself personally that I haven’t even gotten through three, four innings and the bullpen [has] had to come in and clean up my mess [to] pick us up and keep us in games,” Heaney said. “That’s part of a long season. Obviously you don’t want to see that happen.
“You know, it sucks, but those guys are going out there and trying. … I’ve had games like that, so that’s part of baseball. And I know it’s frustrating, obviously, you know, we’re not happy about just the way the last few games have been going.”
This was a very measured response by a pitcher who would have had every right to be upset. He recorded 20 of the 27 outs required to finish a baseball game, and gave up zero runs in the process. Meanwhile, the bullpen allowed eight runs to score while recording just seven outs.
Heaney has had some less than ideal performances this season, but overall, he’s routinely been one of the Angels most consistent starting pitchers. Blown leads have been an issue for this team’s bullpen all season long, and it’s something that desperately needs to be fixed if the Angels want to right the ship.
Perry Minasian defends Albert Pujols decision
The Angels also made headlines this week by designated Albert Pujols for assignment in a surprise move. General manager Perry Minasian defended the decision by saying that as he watched the team, it was clear that Pujols was no longer a fit.