The Los Angeles Angels chose several ways to honor pitcher Tyler Skaggs on Friday in their first home game since his death, but perhaps the most appropriate way was one they never could have planned.
After Skaggs’s mother threw out the first pitch — right down the middle — and with the entire team wearing No. 45 “SKAGGS” jerseys, Angels pitchers Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combined to throw a no-hitter in a 13-0 win over the Mariners.
Each of the Angels laid their tops on the mound at the conclusion of a bittersweet night in Anaheim.
“Definitely the most special thing that’s ever happened to me on a baseball field,” said Cole, who started the game with two perfect innings as the Angels’ opener.
Pena took the ball from there, striking out six in the final seven innings. The only Mariners base runner reached via walk in the fifth.
“It’s been a tough week, and we just support each other, and now we have an Angel taking care of us in heaven,” Pena said.
Skaggs died unexpectedly on July 1, just shy of his 28th birthday.
Before the game, the Angels lined up along the third base line as they observed a minute-long tribute video followed by a 45-second moment of silence.
All-star outfielder Mike Trout and pitcher Andrew Heaney, Skaggs’s close friend, placed a framed jersey on an easel behind the pitcher’s mound, which had “45” outlined in chalk.
Skaggs’s mother, Debbie, stepped on the mound to deliver the game’s first pitch.
“I hope I make him proud,” she said earlier in the day.
She delivered a perfect strike.
She then took five steps to the edge of the mound, clasped her hands together in front of her face and looked up at the sky.
“It all started with Debbie’s first pitch,” Cole, the starter, said. “Threw it right down the middle. Unbelievable. Couldn’t have made a better pitch to start us out on the right foot.”
Not long after, Trout homered in his first at-bat, launching his 29th shot of the season an estimated 454 feet. It was his fourth 450-foot home run this season. Sports and numbers often have a way of merging for the proper amount of sentiment.
Earlier Friday, the team unveiled a mural on the center field wall memorializing Skaggs.
The team also put Skaggs’s motto, “WE’RE NASTY” above the season schedule in the Angels clubhouse.
Skaggs’s locker will remain in the clubhouse throughout the season.
For the rest of the year, baseball will serve as both a distraction and a constant reminder for a group that lost a teammate so abruptly. Friday will go down as the second combined no-hitter in franchise history and the first of any kind for the Angels since Jered Weaver in 2012. And it’ll long be remembered because of the pitcher who couldn’t be on the mound.
“You never know which way emotions are gonna work,” Angels Manager Brad Ausmus said. … It certainly seemed early in the game the emotions were lifting us up, or Tyler was lifting us up.”