Andrew Heaney pays tribute to Tyler Skaggs in Angels’ loss to Astros
The tribute looped from Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney’s hand at an undetermined speed, slow enough to avoid detection from the Minute Maid Park radar gun, but distinct enough to leave no doubt.
Heaney’s first pitch of a 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday was a languid overhand curveball, the sort that Tyler Skaggs threw better than all but a few others. Heaney threw the pitch because Skaggs could not.
“When you talk about Skaggs in the baseball world, I think everybody the first they would talk about is his curveball,” Heaney said. “That was his calling card. That was his claim to fame. I just thought it would be kind of cool, and something that felt right.”
The death of Skaggs a few days ago devastated the Angels. The grief has not ceased. The process plays out on a nightly basis, as the organization absorbs the reality of its loss.
“He’s been handling it as well as possible,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “Obviously, the first few days, he was extremely upset. I’m sure it was emotional for him, pitching out there today. He braved it as well as anyone could.”
Heaney’s most memorable pitch was his first. He does not throw a curveball, but he figured he could try. He had generated the idea during the week and Friday mentioned the possibility to catcher Dustin Garneau. In the bullpen before the game, he flipped a few over the plate.
Before the first inning, Heaney stooped on the mound and scribbled a message: “R.I.P. 45.” He said later he felt calm in the moment.
“It’s been a few days,” Heaney said. “I think having that ability to process things a little bit helped. But I was definitely thinking about him.”
Garneau let the umpires and leadoff hitter George Springer know what was coming. Springer told Garneau he would take the pitch. The curveball floated toward the plate and Springer kept his word. Umpire Chad Fairchild ruled it a ball. The call didn’t much matter.
“That’s one of the better ways to do it,” Garneau said. “Everybody knew [Skaggs] for his big curveball that he had.”
The offense provided Heaney no support. A night after hitting three home runs against Astros ace Justin Verlander, the Angels could not solve Gerrit Cole. Cole (9-5) limited the Angels (45-45) to three hits and struck out nine batters in seven innings.
The Astros (56-33) broke through in the fourth inning. Alex Bregman led off with a single. A single by designated hitter Yordan Alvarez followed. With two outs and runners at the corners, Josh Reddick dunked a single into right field. Bregman chugged home for the first run.
Bregman drove in a run an inning later. He batted after a one-out walk by Springer. Heaney challenged Bregman with a 3-and-2 fastball. Bregman hit the 95-mph pitch off the Crawford Boxes in left field, inches above the reach of Jarrett Parker. The double bounced off the wall as Springer scored.
Heaney (1-3) exited after the fifth inning. Trevor Cahill replaced him. Cahill watched his second pitch of the game disappear over the fence. Yuli Gurriel powered an opposite-field shot on a 93-mph fastball.
The Astros squeezed another run out of Cahill, in the seventh inning. Alvarez hit a flat changeup off the right-field fence. The double drove in Bregman, who had walked. The offense could not touch Cole.
“If a guy like Cole is on his game,” Ausmus said, “it’s tough.”
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