ARLINGTON, TEXAS - With the memory of Tyler Skaggs weighing heavy on their hearts, the Los Angeles Angels won their first game since the death of the much-loved 27-year-old pitcher who got to play for his favorite childhood team.
“He was an exceptional young man with an entire life so full of promise yet to live. For some reason, that is incomprehensible to all of us, he lives on now only in our minds and our hearts,” general manager Billy Eppler said before Tuesday night’s 9-4 win at Texas. “Our team will never be the same without him. But forever we’ve been made better by him.”
The Angels decided to play a day after the postponement of the series opener against the Rangers. Skaggs was found unresponsive in his hotel room in Texas on Monday. A cause of death has not been reported.
Before Angels starter Jose Suarez threw his first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, the left-hander appeared to write something in the dirt with his finger. He then touched the No. 45 painted on the back of the mound and tapped his heart.
Justin Bour pointed skyward after his two-run single in the sixth inning, when the Angels went ahead to stay with four runs to break a 3-3 tie. Kole Calhoun was more emphatic with his reaction when crossing home plate after his two-run homer in the eighth.
Shohei Ohtani was 1-for-1 with a pinch-hit single in the eighth.
Bour hit the only pitch he faced after taking over the full count of All-Star second baseman Tommy La Stella, who fouled off a pitch that hit him squarely on his right shin. La Stella didn’t put any pressure on his leg while helped off the field.
Manager Brad Ausmus said the game would “be a refuge for players.” The win got them back to .500 for the season at 43-43.
There was a moment of silence before the game, with the Angels lined up outside the dugout when Skaggs was recognized.
Public address announcer Chuck Morgan introduced the moment of silence by saying the Rangers offered their deepest sympathies and condolences to Skaggs’ family, his teammates and the entire Angels organization.
The introductions of the starting lineups by Morgan before that were uncharacteristically subdued, and the Rangers ran to their positions for the start of the game quietly without any music playing in the stadium.
When Rangers batters were introduced, there was no walk-up music played. Also missing were the normal between-inning shenanigans and the fireworks that usually marked Texas homers — Delino DeShields went deep in the third inning.
Eppler said he spoke to several players about whether to play or not.
“It felt it’s what Tyler would want, and also allow them to get back in a routine, and to have a period of time where they feel disconnected,” the GM said. “A lot of problems go away when the first pitch is thrown until the last pitch is thrown.”
While Angels players weren’t made available to the media, they were in the room when Eppler and Ausmus addressed the pitcher’s death along with team owner Arte Moreno and Angels president John Carpino before the game.
“There are no words to express our sadness today,” Moreno said.
All-Star center fielder Mike Trout sat in a second row of seats against the wall, at times with his head down, like many of his teammates around him.
Ausmus said the team gathered together a couple of times Monday at the team hotel about 32 km from the ballpark. He wiped away tears when speaking about Skaggs.
Asked about his message to his players, Ausmus said that was a “family conversation” that would remain between them.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said he couldn’t imagine what Ausmus and his players were going through preparing to play in that situation.
“I hate to even put myself into that, because it breaks my heart just to think about something like that,” Woodward said before the game. “The shock of it all, it’s heartbreak.”
Eppler described Skaggs as a teammate, a brother, a friend and most importantly a husband and a son who “brought joy to everybody around him.”
Angels players wore a black encircled patch with No. 45 above the heart of their uniforms.
With the team out of town, fans went to Angel Stadium, where they left flowers, hats, baseballs, signs, photos and other memorabilia in a makeshift memorial mound.
The poignant display resembled the fan-created memorial for Nick Adenhart in 2009 after the rookie pitcher was killed by a drunk driver. That tribute stayed out front of the Big A through the summer.
Carpino said the Angels would pay tribute to Skaggs in much the same way they did Adenhart, who was killed after his first start of the 2009 season that was only his fourth major league game.
“The way we’ll honor them both is just watching these guys play,” Carpino said, referring to the players sitting to his left. “As far as the stadium, just typical with a patch and all that, but honoring him so much more with our thoughts and our hearts is the most important thing.”
Nationals 3, Marlins 2
In Washington, Patrick Corbin pitched seven strong innings on an emotional night, Trea Turner doubled home the winning run in the ninth as the Nationals beat Miami.
A former teammate and close friend of Tyler Skaggs, Corbin wore Skaggs No. 45 rather than his own No. 46. He allowed a run on six hits and struck out seven without a walk.
In Other Games
Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 4
Phillies 2, Braves 0
Reds 5, Brewers 4 (11)
Pirates 5, Cubs 1
Giants 10, Padres 4
Mets 4, Yankees 2
Astros 9, Rockies 8
Cardinals 5, Mariners 4
Orioles 6, Rays 3
Indians 9, Royals 5
Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 6
Athletics 8, Twins 6
Tigers at Red Sox — ppd.