Eleven days ago, he was pitching in double A for a team called the BayBears.
Monday, he struck out Houston’s Carlos Correa in the eighth inning with the tying run on base to help the Angels beat the reigning World Series champions, 2-0.
“I thought it was crazy,” Keynan Middleton said.
The reliever was talking about the stunning big league debut of his newest teammate, Justin Anderson.
But the Angels’ current closer could have been referencing this entire game, one that was full of unlikely moments that added up to a victory that seemed quite unlikely early on.
Coming off a deflating 1-5 homestand, the Angels beat an Astros team that had won six in a row and a starter in Gerrit Cole who was perfect into the fifth inning.
“They are the defending champs,” Middleton said. “We know that. So we have to send a message. I feel like we did that tonight. This game was huge for us.”
The Angels’ runs were driven in by Kole Calhoun, whose RBI single snapped an 0-for-20 stretch, and Justin Upton, whose RBI double was preceded by two strikeouts and an 0-for-21 tumble.
They won because Tyler Skaggs matched Cole pitch for pitch, until he elevated his game even higher.
They won because of the relieving of Anderson and Middleton, but only after the final strike was thrown by catcher Martin Maldonado, who cut down Houston’s Yuli Gurriel trying to advance on a ball in the dirt with two outs in the ninth.
Gurriel originally was ruled to be safe, but the call was reversed by replay, the Angels winning a challenge and a game simultaneously.
“It’s what you live for,” Skaggs said of his showdown with Cole. “They’re a rival team that we want to beat. They were where we want to be. I knew he was pitching well. I had to pitch better.”
Emphasizing his changeup more than ever, the left-hander shut out Houston on four hits through seven innings. Ten outs came on ground balls.
It’s the second time in his past three starts against the Astros, dating to last year, that Skaggs has shut them out over seven innings.
“That’s a great game,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “That’s what Tyler can do.”
In need of relief for their overworked relievers, the Angels (and everyone else) saw what Anderson can do.
Having begun the season with double-A Mobile, the 25-year-old right-hander suddenly entered his first big league game. In his hometown. Against the team for whom he grew up rooting.
Throwing a fastball in the upper-90s, Anderson retired the first two Astros and gave up singles to George Springer and Jose Altuve before striking out Correa.
“I heard the crowd and everything,” Anderson said. “I was telling myself, ‘Just hush ’em. Calm them down right here. Get them to be quiet.’ I felt like that’s what I did.”