In their first home game since the death of 27-year-old pitcher Tyler Skaggs on July 1, the Angels threw a combined no-hitter in a 13-0 win over the Mariners on a night dedicated to the player’s memory.
Right from the jump, it was clear that Friday’s game was going to be a particularly special one. With the Anaheim crowd on its feet, and every Angels player wearing Skaggs’s name and his No. 45 on the back of their jerseys in honor of their teammate and friend, Skaggs’s mother Debbie kicked things off with a perfect strike for an emotional first pitch.
It was then up to the players to ensure that the game would follow the tone that was set during that ceremony. They delivered. On the defensive side, Taylor Cole went perfect for two innings, striking out two batters, before Felix Peña replaced him in the third. Peña walked one batter, struck out six and did not allow any hits through his seven-inning outing—a performance that was preserved thanks in part to a diving stop that rookie third baseman Matt Thaiss made in the sixth inning.
It became the 11th no-hitter in franchise history. Coincidentally, No. 11 was what Skaggs wore as pitcher on his high school baseball team. Cole told reporters that it was a performance inspired by what the team had seen before the game even began.
“It all started today with Debbie’s first pitch,” Cole said. “Couldn’t have made a better pitch to get us going on the right foot. Just a really special night for our team, and for the fans, and for his family. It’s definitely the most special thing that’s ever happened to me on a baseball field.”
On the offensive side, the Angels performed as if they wanted to give their dominant pitchers as much breathing room as possible. They scored seven runs in the first inning—which included a two-run homer and two-run double from Mike Trout—as they batted around Seattle’s Mike Leake. Trout’s homer came on the first pitch of his at-bat and went 454 feet.
Trout—who was drafted alongside Skaggs in 2009—made sure to point out after the game that the team’s offensive performance ended up being an unlikely additional tribute to Skaggs with the Angels scoring seven in the first, and 13 total, which happens to be the two numbers that make up the pitcher’s birthday: 7/13.
“It’s just stuff you can’t make up,” said Trout, who has reached base exactly 45 percent of the time over his last 45 games. “Tonight was in honor of him, and he was definitely looking over us tonight. He’s probably up there saying we’re nasty and just what an unbelievable game to be a part of. I’m speechless. This is the best way possible to honor him. It was pretty crazy.”
As if that wasn’t wild enough, here’s a fun fact about the last time there was a combined no-hitter in California:
But the emotional peak for the players came well before they found out about any of these statistical connections to their fallen friend. It happened shortly after Angels second baseman Luis Rengifo bobbled a grounder, but was still able to make the throw to first for the final out of the game in the top of the ninth. The home dugout emptied out in celebration of what had just been done, and who it was done for. After the cheers a particularly somber moment as most everyone in an Angels uniform took off their jerseys and laid them out on the pitcher’s mound in a touching final in-game tribute.
The Mariners were far from immune to the emotional environment they had just played in, and offered their condolences and congratulations to their opponents after the game.
“If that doesn’t give you chills or that doesn’t make you put life in perspective, I don’t know if you have a heartbeat,” said Mariners designated hitter Dan Vogelbach. “You start thinking about all the people that were affected by that situation, and especially you watch his mom and family walk out there, and just … we’re worried about if we get a hit or we win a ballgame, and they lost their son. So hats off to them and prayers for them, because I couldn’t imagine going through what they go through.”
Said Mariners manager Scott Servais: “There’s baseball gods, I’ve always said it. You know, it’s a crazy game we play. There’s a lot of emotion tied to it. You’re very close with the relationships you have with the people that you spend so much time with over the course of a season and a career, so it’s crazy how things happen.”
But perhaps the most salient quote came from Dee Gordon, who is unfortunately quite familiar with what the type of emotions the Angels are going through at the moment. Gordon, who famously broke down into tears after hitting a lead-off homer for the Marlins in a game honoring the late José Fernández, had one quick thing to say to everyone who had just watched what happened in Angel Stadium on Friday: