Texas Rangers surprise many by electing to start Andrew Heaney in Game 1 of ALDS

All signs pointed to Dane Dunning getting the start today for the Texas Rangers, but they instead have decided to give the ball to Andrew Heaney. Is Heaney ready for the task and what might have gone into this decision?
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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It was thought by most, that the official naming of todays starting pitching by the Texas Rangers was going to be a simple process. All signs pointed to Dane Dunning getting the call, but as the day drug on yesterday and no official starter had been named, it became apparent that a different option might be selected. And that other arm that manager Bruce Bochy will turn to, is none other than lefty, Andrew Heaney.

Andrew Heaney to start another pivotal game for Texas Rangers

Heaney was the guy that Bochy leaned on last Saturday, in what was the biggest game of the season, up to that point. Jon Gray had to be placed on the IL, the Rangers had dropped the first two games up in Seattle, and Mariner's pitcher George Kirby was set for Sunday's game. Nobody associated with the Rangers wanted to go another day without clinching their playoff spot. And as if riding a white horse to help save the day, and the season, Heaney the Oklahoma native, got the start and delivered.

It wasn't a long outing, but it was the outing that the Rangers needed. He went 4 1/3, giving up five hits, one walk, struck out two, and more importantly allowed no runs. Bochy would take another outing like that today, and not blink. Sure, it would be great if he could go a little deeper into the game, but three, four, or five innings of quality pitching would be a huge benefit for the Rangers chances at victory today.

So, why Heaney and not Dunning. Baltimore does have a large number of both lefties and switch hitters that usually occupy the top part of their order. But as Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News has been pointing out, they hit both lefties and righties extremely well, and actually have a better winning percentage against lefties this season. While analytics may be coming into play a bit, there appears to be no underlying number that makes this move the clear-cut choice.

Bruce Bochy finally selects Texas Rangers ALDS Game 1 starter

That leads me to believe that one of two things are true, and possibly both. One, is that Dunning could still be a bit fatigued after starting last Sunday on short rest. Yes, he has now had five days rest, but perhaps he hasn't bounced back quite the way that they wanted him too. His velocity was slightly down in the start on Sunday early on (by about 2 MPH), even though it did get back to his normal ranges after a few innings. Maybe Bochy didn't want to risk Dunning trying to get is legs back under him while facing Balitmore's potent top of the order.

"I got no ego. I just want to win games. I want to play for these guys. I love every one of these guys. I want to win for these guys."

Andrew Heaney

Another factor is Bochy is just being a future Hall of Fame manager and making the decision based on what he is seeing and feeling from his players. That isn't to say that Dunning isn't ready for the big moment, but perhaps Bochy just sees something in Heaney right now that is making him want to go that direction. Could it blow up on him? Absolutely it could. But you don't get to the place of leadership and have the successes that Bochy has had (and hopefully will continue to have) without being able to make the hard decisions. They all don't work, but Bochy isn't scared, and neither is Heaney.

With the first pitch coming at 12:03 CT, there won't be much time for Heaney to sit around and ponder the task at hand. He is a competitor and will give it his all, that is for certain. The game will be televised nationally on FS1, or you can give it a listen on 105.3 FM The Fan.

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