Tyler Skaggs had a couple problems Friday night for the Angels. Neither of them was self-confidence.
“It’s at an 11 right now,”Skaggs said recently. “It’s not even just a 10.”
That’s how good he had been of late, Skaggs giving up four earned runs over his previous 38 innings.
Dallas Keuchel nearly crushed those numbers and historically so, as the Houston left-hander no-hit the Angels deep into the seventh inning before the Astros claimed a 3-1 victory.
The thumping marked a discouraging first step out of the All-Star break for the home team. With Seattle winning, the Angels fell 10 games out of the American League’s second wild-card spot.
At least they avoided the embarrassment of needing more than nine innings to get their first post-break hit. There were points along the way Friday where Keuchel dominated.
The Angels did hit a few hard liners, including a Justin Upton drive in the fourth that could have been a hit were it not for the lunging effort of first baseman Yuli Gurriel.
Finally, with two outs in the seventh, Upton ripped another drive directly over the head of shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. He leaped and extended his glove, only to have the ball squirt out as he was coming back down.
The play could have been ruled a hit or an error, long-time official scorer Ed Munson choosing the former, a decision that was met with jeers from a home crowd apparently more interested in seeing history than an Angels victory.
Gonzalez started because Houston’s regular shortstop, Carlos Correa, is out with a back injury. Of particular note, Correa is three inches taller than Gonzalez.
Any lingering controversy or discussion of the ruling was muted when Ian Kinsler led off the eighth with a single to left. Kinsler eventually scored on a Jabari Blash sacrifice fly.
This franchise hasn’t been no-hit since Sept. 11, 1999, when Minnesota’s Eric Milton did it at the Metrodome. That team — then known as the Anaheim Angels — was managed by Joe Maddon.
These Angels sputtered again against a left-handed starting pitcher, falling to 9-19 in such circumstances. Overall, they’re back to .500 at 49-49.
“As far as in the batter’s box, unfortunately, it was a lot of what we saw against left-handed pitching before the break,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We have to do better. No doubt about that.”
With the offense struggling to produce baserunners, Skaggs needed to be as good or better than he has been recently. He hadn’t given up more than one earned run in six straight starts, one short of the franchise record set more than five decades ago.
The Astros had two earned runs Friday by the time Skaggs retired his fifth batter. Houston scored once in each of the first three innings as Skaggs struggled like he hadn’t since giving up five runs to Detroit on May 28.
“It’s definitely not easy throwing the first game after the All-Star break, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “I’m a professional. I was ready to go today. They just got the best of me.”
The first three Astros reached to start the game, George Springer scoring on Jose Altuve’s single.
The first three Astros reached to start the second, Springer eventually driving in Max Stassi with a sacrifice fly.
Skaggs got out the first two batters to start the third but then walked Evan Gattis and surrendered a run-scoring triple to Josh Reddick. After that, he rallied to keep the Astros hitless over the next three innings.