The promotional theme for the night was the 1980s, complete with Photoshopped images of players on the video board.
Albert Pujols became Erik Estrada from the television show “CHiPs.” Eric Young Jr. became Mr. T from “The A-Team.” But the theme could have been a play off the show, “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
The Angels welcomed back Mike Trout. Rookie Taylor Ward welcomed himself to Angel Stadium. Martin Maldonado was welcomed back in a different uniform.
A 9-3 loss to the Houston Astros did not send the Angels back to the win column Friday, but the aforementioned names were the story.
Trout made an emotionally spiked return from a three-week absence, due largely to the death of his brother-in-law, Aaron Cox, and tripled off the first pitch he saw from Dallas Keuchel. Ward homered in his home debut to comprise the highlights for the Angels.
“It was cool. It was really cool,” Angels starter Andrew Heaney said of Trout’s return.
For Maldonado, it was the first time he had been in the visitors’ locker room of Angel Stadium.
“It’s weird to be on the other team,” Maldonado said before the game.
Maldonado was traded, with Ian Kinsler, before the trade deadline. He spent fewer than two full seasons with the Angels, but Maldonado was well liked in the clubhouse. He hugged former teammates before the game, and he received a warm reception in his first at-bat.
“I have friends that have always been there for me,” said Maldonado, who singled in a run. “I enjoyed them. I hope they enjoyed me.”
The Angels inched closer to enjoying having Shohei Ohtani back on the mound. He will throw a bullpen session Saturday and a simulated game is targeted for next week, manager Mike Scioscia said.
Ohtani has not pitched since he sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in June. He could return in September on a limited pitch count, especially when rosters expand and the team could back him up with a starter.
Ohtani pinch-hit in the eighth inning, with two on and two outs, and struck out against left-hander Tony Sipp. Houston put away the Angels on Marwin Gonzalez’s second career grand slam in the fifth inning, a two-out shot to center field to tag Heaney with five runs. Heaney previously gave up three runs total in four career starts against the Astros.
“When he made mistakes tonight, it seemed like those guys were on it,” Scioscia said. “But I think he pitched a little bit better than I think the five runs are going to show.”
Jose Altuve put his stamp on the game in the third inning with a 417-foot home run and a clever play to let David Fletcher’s flare fall on the infield grass to facilitate an inning-ending double play.
Tyler Skaggs said he will do long toss as he attempts to return from a left adductor strain. The next step would be bullpen sessions and perhaps a simulated game. He cast doubt on a minor league assignment, given that that season is ending soon. But Skaggs is confident he’ll pitch again this season.
“I’m sick and tired of just trying to grind through things,” Skaggs said. “It came to a point where it was affecting me a lot on the mound and decided to take a few weeks off.”
Skaggs said the rest helped.
“It’s a lot easier for me to kind of be mobile,” he said. “I felt pretty good today.”
Matt Shoemaker threw a 45-to-50-pitch simulated game and “felt great,” Scioscia said. Shoemaker could next pitch in a minor league game if he progresses from forearm nerve surgery. Friday was a good sign.
“That’s really an encouraging step for Shoe to get through that three innings and still feel like he can go out there for a fourth,” Scioscia said.
Houston pitcher Justin Verlander drew jokes on social media when he posted a photo of a receipt from the Beverly Hills Hotel cafe that jokingly itemized a $1-million charge for being a “Dodger Killer.”
“#BeverlyHillsHotel really making me pay for that World Series win,” Verlander wrote on Twitter, in reference to last season.
Verlander will start Saturday.