On a night the LA Angels returned home to Angel Stadium of Anaheim to celebrate the life of Tyler Skaggs with their fans, the unbelievable happened, as Taylor Cole and Felix Peña combined to no-hit the Seattle Mariners.
Perhaps the shock was gone. Maybe it was the framed jersey behind the mound, the familiar 45 on it. Maybe it was the impressive memorial graphic to Tyler Skaggs on the outfield wall. Whatever it was, the Angels taking the field in their home park, each player and coach wearing the red 45 jersey of their fallen teammate, made it feel real.
But the announced crowd of over 43,000 was not there to grieve, though we all continue to do so. In a perfectly executed pregame ceremony featuring Skaggs’ family, the tone was set: we were gathered here tonight to celebrate the life of Tyler Skaggs and his spirit.
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The tone was set, and indeed, the first strike of the evening was thrown by Debbie Skaggs, Tyler’s mother, delivering a beautiful strike from the pitcher’s rubber to Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs’ best friend.
David Fletcher led off the bottom of the first inning with a double, setting the tone for an offensive outburst from the Angels. The very next batter, Mike Trout, sent a titanic blast 454 feet (you read that right) into the Anaheim sky, starting the scoring in a game that would finish a lopsided 13-0.
Taylor Cole, the opener, quietly delivered two perfect innings against the backdrop of the Halos batting around in the 1st inning, delivering him a 7 run cushion before he even took the mound for the second inning. Felix Peña would take over in the third and was immediately dominant, working the low part of the strike zone to make quiet work of the Mariners lineup. By the 6th inning, it became apparent that, with the only baserunner, Omar Navaez, having reached by a walk in the 5th, something very special was happening in Anaheim.
The Angels would continue to pile on, securing a 13-0 lead in the 7th via Justin Upton home run. Mike Trout had followed up his home run with a double in his second plate appearance of the first inning, a hit by pitch, another RBI double, and a walk. David Fletcher set the table with a 3-5 performance, and Andrelton Simmons delivered a 3-5 night of his own. Matt Thaiss, who just this year began to learn third base in the minors, made a diving stop to preserve the no-hitter in the sixth inning, with a solid scoop at first base from Justin Bour.
But, in a fitting tribute for a pitcher, all eyes late in the game would turn from this total team effort, to the mound, where the Angels pitching staff, led by Cole and Peña, was preparing the ultimate tribute. Peña would cruise through a 1-2-3 8th inning, gaining momentum as the Angels found themselves only three outs from the 11th no-hitter in franchise history.
The Mariners pitching staff would not find peace even in the 8th inning, as Mike Trout would again come up with the bases loaded, “MVP!” chants raining down from the raucous Anaheim crowd. Trout grounded out, and out came Felix Peña for the 9th inning of a game that was a tribute, in sweat, in emotion, energy, and teamwork, to Tyler Skaggs.
Peña got Mac Williamson to fly out on the first pitch of the inning, then immediately got a swing and a miss from Dee Gordon on a slider. Gordon hit a chopper in front of the mound, which Peña deftly fielded for the second out. Mallex Smith then grounded out to Luis Rengifo, and the improbable had happened.
On a night the Angels lifted themselves up in the spirit of their teammate, they paid the ultimate tribute by combining for a decisive 13-0 no-hit victory. Where a voice in the clubhouse is missing, so many have stepped up. The loss of a friend has galvanized the bonds of the remaining teammates.
Debbie Skaggs threw the first strike, in a red number 45 Tyler Skaggs jersey. Taylor Cole threw two perfect innings in that same jersey, then Felix Peña brought it home over seven cathartic innings.
Sure, it was a combined no-hitter.
But number 45 threw a no-hitter tonight.