The Los Angles Angels understand they will deal with the death of their teammate, Tyler Skaggs, for the remainder of this season, most likely the rest of their lives. And each player will compartmentalize grief in their own way.
On Friday, the Angels organization decided to mourn together, paying tribute to Skaggs by each player wearing his number 45 during game at Angel Stadium against the Seattle Mariners.
And something quite remarkable happened.
The Angels scored seven runs in the first inning. And their pitching staff combined for a no-hitter as Los Angeles pounded the Mariners 13-0.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Angels superstar centerfielder Mike Trout.
Trout is right. Imagine the confluence of wonderful events for the Angels, a team desperately trying to stay relevant in the American League.
The 11th no-hitter? Skaggs wore No. 11 at Santa Monica High. The seven first-inning runs and 13 overall? Skaggs’ birthday was 7/13. And it was the first combined no-hitter thrown in California since July 13, 1991 when the Baltimore Orioles stymied the Oakland A’s.
That was the day Tyler Skaggs was born.
“This is all for him,” said pitcher Felix Pena, who pitched the final seven innings. “I feel like we have an angel looking down on us. Every time I was on the mound I tried to remember his words. He gave me like every time he said to me, ‘Focus, focus, no matter what happens. Focus every at-bat, every pitch.”
Playing in their first home game since Skaggs’ death on July 1, the night began with a solemn ceremony. The Angels invited his mother, Debbie, to throw the first pitch, a strike to Andrew Heaney, Skaggs’ great friend.
“Everybody who knows her knows how strong she is,” said Heaney. “If you know anything about her, you can understand why Tyler was how he was — extremely self-confident, strong-willed, hard-working. She is definitely the epitome of that. And if anybody had any question about where Skaggs got his ability to throw off the mound, it was evident tonight.”
And things moved on from there.
Taylor Cole pitched the first two innings before yielding to Pena. They struck out eight and walked only one.
“You feel like it’s partly Skaggsy’s no-hitter,” said Angels manager Brad Ausmus.
The Southlake Police Department in Texas said on the day of Skaggs’ death that no foul play was suspected and that it did not suspect suicide. The autopsy report is not due until October at the earliest.
“His loss is his loss, and there’s an emptiness regardless of the cause,” said Ausmus before the game. “I’m not in any rush to find out. All I know is Tyler Skaggs is no longer here. He had a lot of friends and family that cared about him a lot. The reason he died isn’t what hurts; the fact that he died is what hurts.”
As for the game, Trout had three hits and six RBIs, first with a two-run homer and then with a bases-loaded double. He reached base five times. Trout is batting .407 with seven homers and 16 RBIs since the death of Skaggs
“His shoulders are broad because he carries around a lot,” said Angels general manager Billy Eppler said before the game. “This kid – or this young man – has just continued to be there for everybody.”
As is always the case in a no-hitter, there was also a great defensive play that preserved it. Rookie third baseman Matt Thaiss dove to his left to snag a ground ball from Mac Williamson and beat him to first with the throw.
After the game was over, the Angels took off their No. 45 jerseys and draped them on the mound.
“To be out there where he loved to pitch from, where he dominated and threw that curveball, that came from the sky, so just to honor him one more time meant a lot to me,” Trout said. “It was just a great, great moment for our team to stand around the mound and honor him again.”