The first game back from the All-Star Break sometimes takes on a meaning beyond its importance. It’s not uncommon for teams to play different first and second halves, so we’re eager to see how our team responds to their vacation.
Tonight was a different kind of return. Instead of a night where we hoped to see our team’s future, we looked back. Tonight was the first night the Los Angeles Angels played at home since Tyler Skaggs died last week. The team honored him in a beautiful pre-game ceremony. His mother threw out the first pitch. Tonight we stayed in the moment, living in the grief. The future will be there tomorrow, but tonight we stood still.
The death of a player is felt throughout baseball. Even those who never played with Skaggs were his colleague, and with him, a member of an exclusive club of major league baseball players. Everyone feels this, particularly his teammates. They took the field tonight, each wearing his name and number across their backs. They played like he was there to cheer them on.
The emotion of this moment and their grief propelled the Angels to a 7-run first inning against
opener starter Mike Leake, who last for 2⁄3 of that inning. The heart of the inning was when Mike Trout hit a 2-run home run to put the Angels on the board:
No. 45 goes yard. pic.twitter.com/9FYs72Xffp— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) July 13, 2019
The Angels just continued to shell Leake from there. He would face a total of 12 batters and throw 47 pitches.
It was a painful inning, and a painful game for Mariners fans to watch. In isolation, it felt like the platonic ideal of “If it all goes wrong”. The frustration and irritation at the team’s inability to perform basic tasks; the knee-jerk inclination toward sarcastic quips. All familiar reactions.
The parade of Mariners pitchers that followed Leake included Matt Festa, Tommy Milone, Matt Wisler, Cory Gearrin, Parker Markel, and David McKay. (You get to pitch! And you get to pitch! Everybody gets to pitch!) Milone was the best of the bunch going 2.1 innings without allowing a run and striking out 5.
The pitchers didn’t have much defense to lean on. Three errors were committed in the game by the Mariners, another familiar frustration.
The offense couldn’t manage a hit against opener Taylor Cole or follower (?) Felix Pena. The lone base runner came when Omar Narvaez drew a walk in the fifth inning.
Tonight wasn’t about the Mariners though. They were the straight man to the Angel’s performance, simply the step stool up to the counter. Sometimes there are moments that just aren’t yours.
“There’s baseball gods,” Scott Servais shrugged when asked about the emotions tonight, summing up a game that never was within reach for his team.
At the end of the night, an Angels pitcher with Skaggs 45 on the back of his jersey tossed the final pitch in a no-hitter. The moment was bigger than the Mariners. The Angels needed this one.