The Texas Rangers have announced that Andrew Heaney and Jordan Montgomery will start Games 1 and 2 in Baltimore in the American League Division Series starting tomorrow against the Orioles. The O’s will have Kyle Bradish starting in Game 1 and Grayson Rodriguez in Game 2.
Montgomery going in Game 2 seemed to be a given, as he will be pitching on regular rest, and can pitch a decisive Game 5, should one be necessary, on regular rest as well. The question was who would be pitching Game 1, and I figured Dane Dunning was the easy choice. I also suggested that Will Smith might be used as an opener for Dunning, should the Rangers want to try to counter the lefty-heavy top of the lineup Baltimore tends to use against lefthanded starters.
I was, as it turns out, wrong on both counts, with the lefty Heaney getting the nod here. It is suggested that the park configuration at Camden Yards, with their deep left field wall, may play a role in this decision — Camden does play slightly more favorably for lefthanded hitters than righthanded hitters. And the lefty-heavy alignment at the top of the Baltimore order may be a factor as well.
That said, it will also be interesting to see if Heaney is used as a “traditional” starter on Saturday. Heaney was used mostly in the bullpen in September, and hasn’t thrown five innings since August 29, or six innings since August 1. As the season went on, Bruce Bochy tended to see Heaney as a five-and-dive guy, and generally had a quick hook with Heaney.
What we could see is Bochy going with Heaney to start, getting him at least once through the order, and then getting Dane Dunning into the game once Heaney gets into trouble. The Orioles tend to platoon at a couple of positions, and making a switch in the relatively early innings potentially forces Baltimore to go to their bench earlier, which presents an opportunity for more favorable matchups in the late innings for the Rangers.
It is worth noting that Heaney had weird splits this season — lefties were .276/.406/.400 off of him in 128 plate appearances, while righthanded hitters were .246/.314/.448 in 513 plate appearances. Heaney allowed 23 homers this year in 147.1 IP, but only one to a lefty — the other 22 homers were all by righthanded hitters. On the other hand, Heaney walked 22 lefties while striking out just 26, compared to a 38:125 ratio against righthanded batters.