NEW YORK — When Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts homered with two outs in the first inning on Wednesday night, lifting a two-strike fastball from left-hander Andrew Heaney into the second deck in right, a collective groan circulated around Yankee Stadium.
Here we go again.
Bogaerts' blast was the ninth home run the southpaw has allowed since he was acquired by the Angels at last month's trade deadline. That's nine home runs and 16 earned runs allowed across his first 15.2 innings pitched in a Yankees uniform.
Considering Heaney gave up three bombs and seven earned runs in his last start—pitching in the Field of Dreams Game in Iowa—all signs pointed to another clunker with Boston's powerful lineup eager to pounce on a lefty susceptible to the big fly.
And yet, Heaney didn't let that one swing set the tone. The 30-year-old immediately settled down, almost as though he had flipped a switch on the mound. Heaney proceeded to retire 18 of the next 21 batters he faced, a dominant turnaround to get him through seven frames.
"A really efficient, strong outing to finish off a really nice series," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "I'm happy for him. Obviously, it's been a tough go here these first few times, and you're grinding through it. That's a big time outing for him."
Coming off the mound as the seventh-inning stretch was set to begin, the left-hander received a standing ovation, tipping his cap to a crowd of 39,166 in the Bronx.
"There was more of a feeling than like a sound, I guess," Heaney said, attempting to describe that moment as he returned to the Yankees' dugout. "I did my job tonight to give us a chance to win. And with this lineup that we have on this team, you just got to give those guys a chance because they're gonna put up runs."
Heaney wound up with two hits allowed over seven, keeping Boston scoreless after the early homer in a 5-2 victory, earning his win with the Bombers. In retrospect, Heaney wasn't even mad at the pitch he threw to Bogaerts. Neither was his catcher.
"I thought it was a good pitch and sometimes that happens. You execute a good pitch and good hitters are able to hit it well," Gary Sánchez said through the team's interpreter. "Overall, everything was working very nicely, command was very good and before the game we sat down, we worked on a plan of attack, and I thought we did a really good job of executing tonight."
Boone and Heaney both singled out the southpaw's fastball as a key to his success. His ability to locate on the inner third kept Red Sox hitters from hanging over the plate, hunting mistake pitches. That opened the door for his secondary pitches to be effective as well.
One start won't wash away his first three shaky outings since the trade, but it certainly alleviates Heaney's frustration. The left-hander has been candid about how poorly he's pitched up to this point. To help his team win—which he called the "ultimate goal"—turns what was a tough stretch into a promising performance.
"I just haven't really pitched well. And that's what I was brought here to do. So that's not a good feeling to feel like you're not pulling your weight," Heaney said. "I hope that this is a beginning of getting some things moving in the right direction ... anything I can do to help the team win is where my focus is at."
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