Angels’ Heaney beats A’s for first win since 2015
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The timeframe for a pitcher to return to a big-league mound after Tommy John surgery is often 18 months.
For Los Angeles Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney, though, things couldn’t have gone more smoothly following his procedure in July 2016. He hit virtually every benchmark along the way during his recovery and rehab and made it back in 13 1/2 months.
Some of that excitement waned a bit when, in his first start back on Aug. 18, the Baltimore Orioles knocked him around for five runs and seven hits in five innings.
He was a little better in his next start against Texas on Aug. 23 (four runs in five innings), but he cleared a huge hurdle Monday by earning his first victory since Sept. 2, 2015, throwing strong six innings in the Angels’ 3-1 win over the Oakland A’s at Angel Stadium.
Heaney struck out a career-high 10 batters, and Martin Maldonado had three hits to help move the Angels to within one game of the idle Minnesota Twins in the race for the second American League wild card.
The Angels (67-65) also got a productive night from second baseman Kaleb Cowart, who drove in the go-ahead run with a fourth-inning double and made an outstanding defensive play in the seventh inning to thwart a potential Oakland rally.
However, the night belonged to Heaney, who allowed just two hits, one of them a solo homer by A’s catcher Dustin Garneau.
Heaney (1-0) walked three batters after not walking any in his first two starts, but he made up for it with his strikeout total. He fanned at least one batter in every inning he pitched and struck out the side in both the first and sixth innings.
After his previous two starts, Heaney figured there were things that needed tweaking.
“It takes games where you’re getting hit around and making some mistakes to dial you in and let you focus on things you need to do the next time out,” Heaney said. “Even though the first two weren’t great, the second one was better than the first one, and this one was better than the first two.
“I needed to go back to the drawing board and work on a few things.”
With Heaney out of the game and the Angels leading 2-1 in the seventh, Angels reliever Keynan Middleton got a big play behind him from Cowart. Middleton gave up a leadoff single to pinch hitter Boog Powell, and Matt Chapman followed with a sharply hit ball to the right side that appeared headed toward right field.
However, instead of the A’s having runners on first and third and nobody out, Cowart made a diving stop before throwing out Chapman. The inning fizzled from there.
Taking over in the eighth, Angels reliever Yusmeiro Petit got a key double play to escape the inning unscathed. Blake Parker struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
A’s starter Daniel Gossett (3-7) gave up nine hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings, but he managed to hold the Angels to three runs. Only two of the runs were earned, as a throwing error by right fielder Matt Joyce in the seventh inning costing Gossett and the A’s a run.
“He went deep in the game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Gossett. “He got off to a little bit of a slow start command-wise but recovered really well. His breaking ball was better after the second (inning), his fastball was at the knees and on the corners, he pitched really well. We just didn’t score him enough runs.”
The loss guaranteed the A’s (58-73) will having a losing record for the 10th consecutive month, the longest active streak in the majors.
“We made some mistakes all the way around,” Melvin said of the offense. “We could have had a better chance to be in that game. Certainly, with runners in scoring position (0-for-9) or runners on base, we didn’t have very good at-bats.”
Much of it had to do with Heaney, with hit 96 mph on the radar gun in his last inning. But he said it was his breaking pitch that made the difference.
“In my bullpen (session), I was just working on trying to get a better feel for the slider, throw it in there for a strike, try to be more aggressive with it late, got to mix it in, got to throw it,” he said. “Tonight, it felt more comfortable, it felt like I had three pitches. It wasn’t a flip of the coin, it wasn’t something where I felt I was painted into a corner. I had options, I had different pitches.”
NOTES: Angels CF Mike Trout did not play, a precautionary day off because of a sore neck. He got hurt Sunday when running into the wall trying to catch a triple by Houston’s Brian McCann, but he likely will return to the starting lineup Tuesday. Trout is hitless in 17 at-bats, one short of his career-worst drought, in August 2014. At .318, Trout’s average is the lowest it has been since he was hitting .304 on April 16. OF Cameron Maybin started in center field in Trout’s place. ... Athletics 2B Jed Lowrie was in the starting lineup as the designated hitter, one day after having to leave the game when he fouled a pitch off his left shin. INF Chad Pinder got the start at second base. The two went a combined 0-for-7.