Los Angeles Angels Tyler Skaggs strong in 1st outing.

Tyler Skaggs looked good in his first live action since a late April setback. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Skaggs looked good in his first live action since a late April setback. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Angels got some encouraging news Monday evening as Tyler Skaggs got back on the mound again for the first time in two months.  Skaggs pitched for the Inland Empire 66’ers against the Lake Elsinore Storm.

When Skaggs took the mound many Los Angeles Angels fans held their breath hoping things would go smoothly.  The fans, the Los Angeles Angels, and most importantly Tyler Skaggs got their wish.  Except for some first inning trouble Skaggs looked like he was in mid-season form.

After Skaggs gave up hits to three of the first four batters he faced which plated one run for the Storm, Skaggs rebounded and retired the next nine batters, five of which were strikeouts.  Skaggs final numbers were 4.1 innings pitched, five hits, one run allowed and five strikeouts.  Skaggs threw 58 pitches, 40 of which were strikes and 18 balls.

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With Skaggs not available for comment after the game, I interviewed 66’ers manager Chad Tracy who was pleased with the lefty’s performance.

“He was a little bit up in the zone in the first inning his stuff was fine, he was just missing, his tempo wasn’t quite there,” Tracy said. “He came into the dugout and Wuertzy (pitching coach Michael Wuertz) talked to him, Taylor (Ward) talked to him a little bit and he picked up his tempo and from the second inning on it was lights out. Tempo was good his ball was down with angle, his pitches were sharp, curve ball was sharp, he was really good.”

Skaggs’ catcher Angels top prospect Taylor Ward agreed with his manager’s assessment of the lefty’s performance.

“He did really well.  He is one of those guys who really spots up (hits his spots). He was kind of off and on in the first inning, but he really zoned in and did a good job. It was very professional performance,” said Ward who helped Skaggs out in the first by throwing out Michael Gettys stealing for the second out. “It definitely helped him out as there was a couple of base hits after that play. It felt great to help him get out of that first inning with just one run was good.”

So what changed after the first inning for Skaggs according to Ward.

“He just locked in and everything was rolling for him.  He was able to use all three of his pitches,” Ward said. “He had command of his fastball on both sides of the plate. With a pitch like that it was hard to sit on one pitch in one location. He’s going to be able to command everything and he showed that tonight.”

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In the top of the fourth inning the 66’ers fought back scoring seven runs on five hits.  Hutton Moyer tied the game up with a single up the middle driving in David Fletcher who had doubled to lead off the inning.  Wade Wass was then hit by a pitch, and Ward bunted them over to second and third.  Zach Houchins drove in Moyer to give Inland Empire a 2-1 lead.  Then Jeff Boehm hit the first of two 2-run doubles to extend the lead to 4-1.  The 66’ers would go on to score seven runs in the third to break the game open.

“Tyler is a good guy and he pitched well tonight. You can see what he did out on the mound tonight, he is a big leaguer for obvious reasons.” Said Moyer who has raised his average 30 points since last Friday. “It is a little bit exciting to play behind a guy like him or any of the guys we had down here (from the majors). All the guys that have been down here have been great to us and Tyler was no different.”

In the fifth inning Inland Empire continued to add on as Taylor Ward singled to drive in Wade Wass who had doubled to lead off he inning.  Ward and Zach Houchins, who was hit by a pitch came around to score on Boehm’s second double of the game making the score 10-1. Boehm who drove in four runs in the game going two for four was happy with his performance.

“I was seeing the ball well and getting pitches I like to hit, and sticking to my approach and that’s what I did tonight,” said Boehm who had a rare hit against a left-handed pitcher. “That time I went up (against the lefty) and looked for a fastball elevated up. I got it and drove it to left-center (for a double).

Boehm went on to say he was happy to get an opportunity to play behind Skaggs.

“The pace of the game goes a little bit faster, and you see him doing well and getting guys out it goes to show the way the game is supposed to be played,” Boehm added. “Getting ground balls like that and making plays at first base help him out as well.  What I have gotten out of watching these guys is that if you fail they will come over to you and tell you to keep your head up and learn from your mistakes and go out there and have fun.”

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Since the second half of the California League season started last Thursday, The 66’ers are doing just that winning four out of five games and they find themselves alone in first place. Tracy attributes the team’s recent success to everyone coming together.

“We are playing good baseball, it’s the first time really in awhile that we are all clicking on all cylinders. We’re getting really good pitching, bullpen is doing a great job and we are swinging the bats pretty well,” Tracy said. “All three things are firing at once right now and hopefully we can keep it going. Right now David Fletcher and Hutton Moyer are both swinging the bat pretty well and squaring up the ball really well. They are starting to come around right now and play with some consistency.”

One thing is for sure if Skaggs keeps looking like he did tonight, he will be ready to compete and contribute for the Los Angeles Angels soon.