Tyler Skaggs seemed to pitch two different games in Monday’s 5-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners, a seven-inning start that was a microcosm of a month in which the Angels’ 22-year-old left-hander has alternated between brilliance and turbulence.
Skaggs needed 49 pitches to get through the first two innings, in which he gave up five runs — two earned — and six hits and allowed three stolen bases, as many as he had yielded in his first 58 2/3 innings this season.
Skaggs needed 49 pitches to get through the next five innings, in which he allowed no runs, one hit and struck out five, giving the Angels a chance to mount a comeback — which Mariners right-hander Chris Young denied — and easing the burden on a bullpen that threw 10 innings in the previous two games.
“Most pitchers would look at the scoreboard and think that was a rough outing,” Angels catcher Hank Conger said. “I don’t think that was the case. I think this was one of his best outings of the year, with the way he battled and the way he’s developing and maturing.”
Manager Mike Scioscia had a similar assessment of Skaggs’ body of work this month, which started with a 2 2/3-inning, six-run, eight-hit effort in a loss to Texas on May 4.
Next came an eight-inning, two-run, four-hit win over Toronto, a six-inning, five-run, eight-hit no-decision against Tampa Bay, a seven-inning, one-run, five-hit win over Houston and Monday’s loss, which dropped Skaggs to 4-2 with a 3.97 earned-run average.
“It’s not much different from what you’d expect from a young, talented arm that is trying to make footprints in the major leagues,” Scioscia said. “I don’t think he’s been up and down. He’s kept us in just about every game he’s pitched. Some have gotten away, but I think he’s throwing the ball very well.”
Skaggs didn’t beat himself up over what some might consider an erratic month.
“Personally, I think I’ve had a great month,” Skaggs said. “I feel like I’m throwing the ball well, throwing the ball down in the zone for strikes. Some games, I’ve let some innings balloon up. But that’s part of learning. I’m 22. Slowly, but surely, I’m figuring it out.”
James Jones opened the first inning with an infield single, and Michael Saunders bunted to Skaggs. First baseman Albert Pujols was on the bag, but Skaggs threw to second baseman Howie Kendrick, who was about eight feet off the bag.
“I saw Howie running, and I saw Albert,” Skaggs said. " I didn’t know if Albert was coming toward home. It was a bad play altogether. I had a lot of time, and maybe I thought about it too much and kind of short-armed it. Not my finest moment.”
Robinson Cano followed with a run-scoring single, and Saunders scored on Justin Smoak’s groundout for a 2-0 lead.
In the second inning, Dustin Ackley singled with one out, stole second and took third on a groundout. Shortstop Erick Abyar charged Jones’ soft one-hopper — it was his only chance to get the speedy leadoff man — and bobbled it for an error, as Ackley scored.
Jones stole second, Saunders hit an RBI triple to right, and Cano’s RBI single made it 5-0. Cano stole second, and Justin Smoak walked before Skaggs struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning.
“They all went on the first move,” Skaggs said of the stolen bases. “It’s hard to worry about the runner and make pitches at the same time. I figured it out at the end. I shortened up my stride a little bit and started throwing more strikes.”