Andrew Heaney first looked at the high arching drive in disgust, then toward the Dodgers dugout in disbelief.
For the fourth time Monday night, the Dodgers left-hander had given up a home run, his recent struggles with the long ball becoming an all-out calamity in a 7-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
And when he asked about his struggles postgame, it didn’t take him long to explain why.
“I was throwing s— right down the middle,” he said.
Entering Monday, the 31-year-old veteran had largely been succeeding in spite of his troubling home run habit.
He had a 2.12 ERA in 46 ⅔ innings. He had 70 strikeouts and a team-best 13.5 K/9 rate. And he was starting to look confident with a fastball-slider arsenal, seemingly finally having found a pitch to pair with his deceptive four-seamer.
“This is like 95th percentile [of what we were expecting],” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last week of Heaney, who came to the Dodgers this offseason on a one-year deal hoping to revitalize his career. “A lot of credit to the whole organization, but Andrew obviously gets the most of it. He’s doing fantastic.”
Heaney’s only problem had been the home runs, having given up six in his previous three outings.
In a two-inning flurry Monday night, it suddenly got a whole lot worse.
After two scoreless innings to begin the game, Heaney made a couple mistakes with his fastball in the top of the third.
In an 0-and-1 count to Lewis Brinson, he left a four-seamer down the middle that got hammered for a two-run homer, tying the score after Freddie Freeman’s own two-run blast in the bottom of the first.
Two batters later, Heaney missed over the heart of the plate again, throwing another center-cut mistake that J.D. Davis crushed for a go-ahead solo blast.
The fourth inning wasn’t much better.
Thairo Estrada led off the frame with another solo homer, this time coming off a changeup that was off the plate.
Then Heaney was punished for a bad fastball again, leaving a low one over the plate for David Villar to hammer to right field.
The 90-degree heat at first pitch didn’t help, giving the fly balls extra life on another warm night at Chavez Ravine. But, Heaney noted, “it was hard contact all night. I’m not gonna use that as an excuse.”
Trailing 6-2 after the Giants’ barrage, which raised Heaney’s ERA to 2.94, the Dodgers couldn’t mount a comeback.
Trea Turner was caught stealing to end the third inning, after popping off the second base bag at the end of his slide. The Dodgers (92-42) got one run in the fourth on a Joey Gallo double, but stranded a pair.
Then, in the fifth, they committed their costliest mistake, when Austin Barnes was thrown out at home plate after an overaggressive send from third base coach Dino Ebel.
Solo home runs from Barnes and Brinson marked the only other scoring, giving the Giants (65-68) the series-opening win.
Despite the loss, the Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the NL West still dropped to eight after the San Diego Padres’ loss earlier in the day.
Postgame, Heaney’s performance stirred the most conversation.
As it currently stands, it seems possible Heaney could be squeezed out of the postseason rotation — a potential reality he said last week he would understand.
“It’s one of those things like, if I miss a playoff [rotation] spot because of the guys that are in front of me, I’m not gonna lose sleep whatsoever,” he said. “Those guys are nasty.”
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Even out of the bullpen, Heaney could still provide value, especially as a multi-inning left-handed option capable of racking up strikeouts, after punching out eight more Monday.
But first, he’ll have to clean up his penchant for homers, something he and Roberts said could be remedied by better command and more variation to what has largely been a two-pitch mix of fastballs and sliders since coming off the IL.
“We have time,” Robert said. “I know he was upset tonight. I think that’s a good thing. … The first handful of starts, it seemed pretty easy for him. He’s still striking out a lot of guys. Yeah, he’s been bitten by the long ball the last 2 ½ outings. But he’ll be fine.”
Roberts said Gavin Lux will not play this series, as he continues to nurse a lower neck/upper back injury that required a cortisone shot over the weekend. … Brusdar Graterol (elbow) is getting closer to throwing off a mound. … Tony Gonsolin (forearm) is further behind in his recovery, still needing to extend his catch play before being ready for that step.