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Andrew Heaney just pitched Rangers into World Series clincher, rewarding manager’s faith

By Shawn McFarland Dallas Morning News

PHOENIX – In an otherwise morbid pregame news conference on Tuesday, in which Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy delivered some rather deflating news regarding the health of Adolis Garcia and Max Scherzer, a question posed on whether he liked the concept of a bullpen game elicited a smile.

“If you asked me, I’d rather have five starters that go seven or eight innings,” Bochy said. “I think any manager would tell you that.”

Hey, call him old school, even if seven or eight were out of the picture on Tuesday night.

How’s five sound instead?

We’ll answer that: How does a 3-1 lead in the World Series sound?

Andrew Heaney – one-third of Texas’ offseason rotation overhaul and a starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter – helped the Rangers get there in a 11-7 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 4 of the World Series at Chase Field. Texas, a record-breaking 10-0 on the road this postseason, can clinch a World Series championship in Game 5 on Wednesday.

They’ll be able to take a shot at it with a rather rested bullpen.

Thank Heaney for that.

Heaney pitched five innings and allowed one run on four hits, two walks and three strikeouts on Tuesday. It was his longest start since Aug. 29 against the New York Mets, and the most pitches he’d thrown (80) since Sept. 30 against the Seattle Mariners. Dunning, who relieved him in the sixth, pitched a scoreless inning. Same goes for rookie left-hander Cody Bradford in the seventh.

So, sure, the Rangers didn’t have one starting pitcher who could go seven. But they did have three who could combine for that.

“It’s about getting creative, too, at times,” Bochy said before the game.

No doubt. The Diamondbacks tried that with a bullpen game. Didn’t work. Rangers scored five runs in the second inning, another five in the third and mowed through four pitchers before the fourth. The Rangers’ creative approach was a bit more old school, and a byproduct of the bevy of starting pitching options that Texas’ front office acquired between December of last year and this season’s trade deadline.

Heaney, in his first career World Series start, let up a leadoff single to hot-hitting Ketel Marte in the first inning. The lefty came back to strike out Corbin Carroll with his change-up and Gabriel Moreno with his fastball before catcher Jonah Heim threw out Marte at second to snap Arizona’s perfect stolen-base attempt streak this series.

The Rangers led by five runs when Heaney returned to the mound in the second. He worked around a two-out single from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the second and a two-out double from Marte in the third for two scoreless innings. He walked Moreno and let up a Christian Walker double to lead off the sixth, but a Tommy Pham strikeout, a Gurriel flyout and an Alek Thomas groundout limited the damage to one run on the sacrifice fly.

A scoreless fifth set Dunning up for a scoreless sixth after he induced an inning-ending Gurriel double play. Bradford pitched a perfect seventh and lowered his postseason ERA to 1.17 in 7⅔ innings.

Things got shaky in the eighth (and, served as a reminder for the value provided by Heaney) when lefty Brock Burke loaded the bases with one out. In came right-hander Chris Stratton, who let up a sacrifice fly from Pham and a three-run home run from Gurriel to pull Arizona within 11-5. Will Smith allowed a leadoff walk to Jordan Walker and a single to Geraldo Perdomo in the ninth, and after consecutive strikeouts, was replaced by closer Jose Leclerc. He let up a two-run single, but got Christian Walker to pop out for the third out.

Thank goodness for that offense, yeah? Thank goodness for Heaney, too, whose start gave the Rangers some wiggle room to afford Brock and Stratton’s stumbles.

Heaney didn’t just anchor a Game 4 win, either. He set the Rangers’ collective relief staff up well for what could be a World Series-clinching Game 5.

The Rangers, with an “all hands on deck” edict from Bochy, drained their bullpen to win Game 3 after Max Scherzer’s injury-induced early exit. Jon Gray pitched three shutout innings, then Texas’ three late-inning arms – Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman and Jose Leclerc – pitched the seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.

That’s the prudent move; win tonight, figure out tomorrow, well, tomorrow. But it can leave a team’s bullpen depleted, and in this specific three-games-in-three-nights trip to the desert, in a possible bind for those second and third games. Had the Rangers needed to double down on the “all hands on deck” approach Tuesday, it could’ve left the high-leverage arms gassed or unavailable for Game 5. Had they all been needed on Tuesday but kept on ice for Wednesday, who knows how this rather thin Rangers bullpen would’ve fared without them.

Instead: the Rangers will enter Game 5 with a chance to clinch the franchise’s first-ever World Series title with Sborz and Chapman both fresh from a day off. Leclerc, who’s been a workhorse all playoffs, only threw 10 pitches on Tuesday. All that with postseason ace Nathan Eovaldi in line to start.

Credit that offense, sure.

Credit Heaney, too.

Sometimes having a starter lying around is helpful.