In his first start for the Angels, Andrew Heaney came out strong. He only gave up one hit his first time through the lineup and needed just 24 pitches to face the minimum through three. That one hit came off the bat of current Angel-killer Luis Valbuena, but he was quickly erased when Heaney induced a double play to end the third.
Astros pitcher Lance McCullers did a pretty nice job of matching Heaney's first three. Except he struck out four Angels to Heaney's zero. Kole Calhoun hit a double in the second and Aybar hit a single in the third, but that was pretty much the only noise from the Angels' bats in the first third of the game.
In his second AB, Kole worked a four-pitch walk to bring up to bat a pretty good baseball player named Mike Trout. Trouter let a dandy go by on the first pitch. Someone tell me, is he going back to his old ways of taking the first pitch more often than not? It seems that way to these Lylin' eyes. Well, I'm sure he wished he had that first pitch back, because after six more pitches, he struck out for the second time in as many ABs.
Heaney sat the Astros down in order in the fourth, the most impressive sit-down coming courtesy of a called third strike to wunderkind Carlos Correa. The bottom of the fourth got interesting when Albert Pujols led off the inning with a walk, and after Erick Aybar struck out, Matt Joyce hit a single. With two on, Efren Navarro worked a four-pitch walk to load the bases. In stepped Destructobeam. Would he earn the nickname? Well. Kind of. He hit a fly ball to left field, and Albert Pujols came in to score. Kyle Kubitza left two on when he grounded out sharply to end the inning, but hey, a run's a run.
Johnny Giavotella showed again why he's a work in progress, making an error that allowed Colby Rasmus to reach first in the fifth inning. With one out, Chris Carter stepped in. Uh oh. This dude's got power to spare. But Heaney dug deep (Sorry, I've been watching a lot of American Ninja Warrior) and struck him out looking on a 93-mph fastball. He wasn't out of the woods yet, as Luis Valbuena stepped in. Feeding him a steady diet of sliders, Heaney eventually threw one too many and gave up a hit to the Astros' third-baseman, and Rasmus was able to make it to third on the single.The Angels know that Valbuena is batting under .200, right? Well, he was at the time of his second hit of the night. No matter, as Heaney dug even deeper and got Domingo Santana to fly out to end the inning. Phew.
In the sixth, Heaney struck out the side, but he also gave up a single to Jose Altuve and a ringing RBI double to Carlos Correa that sailed over Matt Joyce's head. Joyce took a bad route, but most likely, that ball would have been a hit even with competent fielder in left. However, can someone please tell me why Matt Joyce is even on the roster anymore, let alone playing in the field where baseballs can be hit in his general direction?
The Angels were held silent in the sixth, and Trevor Gott came in to relieve Heaney, who ended with a nice line of 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB (intentional to professional lumberjack Evan Gattis) and 5 K. Not bad, son, not bad at all. Speaking of "not bad", Gott continued to solidify his role as The Seventh Inning Guy with a 1-2-3 frame and a nasty, nasty K on Domingo Santana.
In the seventh, Victor did his best Terry Smith impression when he called a warning-track fly-out off of Albert Pujols' bat as if it were going to land in the parking lot. Nope. Still 1-1. Joe Smith had a very nice bounce-back outing, throwing only five pitches to record a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the eight. The Angels went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning, the only sound being the sonic boom created by David Freese's mighty K. Still 1-1.
Proving that Mike Scioscia has heard our cries about underusing Scott Downs, he sent Agent Joe Smith back to the mound in the ninth. It proved to be a dicey decision. Smith gave up back-to-back hits to start the inning, but he picked off pinch-runner George Springer at first, and Daniel Robertson gunned Evan Gattis trying to stretch a double. Even though Astros skipper A.J. Hinch burned his challenge on the pickoff at first, he was able to coax a crew chief review out of the umps to ensure that Gattis truly was out. Can someone explain the challenge system to me? There seems to be some gray areas.
After walking the third batter of the inning, Smith was pulled and Huston Street was brought in to face Chris Carter. He made short work of the big man, striking him out quickly. The Angels went down meekly against Pat Neshek in the ninth. Still 1-1. (I'm really getting sick of writing that.)
As meek as they were in the ninth, they were even more so in the 10th, 11th and 12th. They were finally able to get something going in the 13th, with a leadoff single by Aybar, who then made his way over to third over the course of two outs. With the winning run at the corner, Taylor Featherston came to the plate and hit a flair single that scored Aybar and gave the Angels the victory. It was a long, grueling game under a blazing sun, but they managed to win the series and gain a game in the standings (now 4.5 back). Heaney sure had a good start, and hopefully it's something to build on, and hopefully it can magically turn another starter into a trade chip redeemable for One (1) Productive Offensive Player from any organization in the MLB. Either way, a walkoff is a walkoff.