Andrew Heaney’s fastball hit hard as Angels fall at Seattle

Andrew Heaney’s favorite pitch is an elevated fastball.

On Friday, the Seattle Mariners just kept hitting them out of the yard.

In the Mariners’ 7-4 win over the Angels at T-Mobile Park, the Angels’ left-handed starter gave up three solo home runs in the first four innings. All three times, it was a fastball up, but not out of the zone, that was hammered over the wall.

“I cannot tell you he wasn’t throwing it well tonight, because I thought he was,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Heaney. “They hit some homers on some pitches I thought were decent pitches.”

Those were the type of fine margins that doomed the Angels (12-12) in Friday’s series opener.

Like when Albert Pujols twice watched loud fly balls die at the track. Or how Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon were called out on borderline strikes in back-to-back at-bats in the top of the sixth.

Dylan Moore manufactured a key insurance run for the Mariners the next half-inning too, drawing a leadoff walk before advancing around the bases on a wild pitch, stolen base and throwing error on catcher Kurt Suzuki.

Eventually, the Mariners (15-12) pulled away, their bullpen silencing the Angels lineup down the stretch to take the first of a three-game series.

“We just couldn’t get it done, in spite of having some good swings and hitting the ball relatively well,” Maddon said. “It just didn’t want to go out for us tonight.”

Here are three observations from Friday:

Heaney chased early

Heaney has always pitched with the belief that “solo homers can’t beat you,” he said Friday. “The one caveat to that would be, you can’t give up a solo homer every inning you pitch.”

The Mariners didn’t go deep every time up in Heaney’s 3 1/3 inning, four-run start. But they came close.

After the Angels had taken a two-run lead in the top of the first on a Rendon RBI double and Jared Walsh sacrifice fly, Mariners lead-off hitter Mitch Haniger immediately responded with a 434-foot home run to dead center when Heaney tried to climb the ladder with a 94-mph four-seamer.

Moore did damage on a similar pitch to lead off the second, swinging at another elevated fastball in a full count for a solo shot to left that tied the score.

Moore drove in another run with an RBI single in the third before Tom Murphy took Heaney deep for another solo blast in the fourth inning. Once again, Heaney tried using a high fastball for his putaway pitch in an 0-2 count.

But Murphy drove it the other way, just clearing the wall in right-center to put the Mariners in front for good.

Murphy’s homer was the one that upset Heaney the most.

“There’s no reason that should be anything near the strike zone,” he said.

It would be the final batter Heaney faced, exiting the game after a laborious 90-pitch outing in which he struck out five but also issued two walks, yielded six hits and faced eight full counts.

It was the fifth time in the Angels’ last eight games their starter failed to complete the fourth inning.

“I didn’t put guys away when I was ahead,” Heaney said. “Didn’t establish anything in the strike zone and didn’t make pitches when I needed to.”

Ohtani adjusts for eighth home run

The Angels' Shohei Ohtani, center, is greeted by teammate Mike Trout after Ohtani homered in the third inning April 30, 2021.

The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, center, is greeted by teammate Mike Trout after Ohtani homered in the third inning.

(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

With Shohei Ohtani off to a blistering start at the plate, teams had begun to test the two-way star with more off-speed pitches — especially changeups — in recent weeks.

That was Mariners starter Chris Flexen’s plan of attack on Friday. And in their first meeting, it worked, Ohtani waving at two changeups before flying out softly on a third in the top of the first.

In Ohtani’s next at-bat, Flexen turned to his changeup again. This time, it backfired. The first pitch missed low. The second was skied over the wall in right for Ohtani’s eighth home run of the season — moving him into a tie for second on MLB’s home run leaderboard behind J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox.

“He makes adjustments in the game,” Maddon said. “He’s really smart. He didn’t get all of that [home run] by any means, but he got enough. That’s what he does.”

After Ohtani’s solo blast, however, the Angels didn’t produce another hit until a ninth-inning double from Trout — who finished the month of April with a .425/.523/.781 slash line, the highest collective single-month totals for any MLB player since 2008.

Trout came around to score when Walsh floated an RBI single into center the next at-bat. But it proved to be the only run the Mariners bullpen would give up over the final five innings.

“They made their pitches, they didn’t miss their spots,” Maddon said. “They executed. That’s why they were successful.”

Roster news

During his pregame video call with reporters, Maddon said he was “confident” that outfielder Juan Lagares (left calf strain) would be able to come off the injured list and play in the Angels’ series this weekend.

Only one of those things proved to be true. About an hour before first pitch, the Angels did reinstate Lagares but decided to option him to Triple-A, electing to instead stand pat with their current 26-man active roster.

Before the game, Maddon also declined to say whether the Angels were among the nine unnamed teams that MLB announced Friday have reached the 85% threshold for COVID-19 vaccinations among Tier I personnel — the point at which teams can begin operating with relaxed health and safety protocols.

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