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Angels

Mike Trout homers as Angels beat Athletics for first win of the season

The Angels didn’t do much on offense Friday, only two swings resulting in runs scoring.

But that was enough, given that they limited the Oakland A’s to just one productive cut.

Mike Trout homered in the first inning and scored on an error in the ninth, and that was exactly what the Angels needed because of everything that didn’t happen in between.

Starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs and the bullpen — with some ninth-inning drama from Blake Parker — bested the A’s for a 2-1 victory, the Angels’ first of the season.

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Skaggs gave up three singles in 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one runner to advance beyond first base.

The left-hander was dominant and then some, 60 of his 98 pitches going for strikes. During one stretch, he retired 14 of 16 Oakland batters. He struck out five and walked none.

Even when he gave up something that appeared threatening, Skaggs had his teammates to help him out. Right-fielder Kole Calhoun made a full-extension diving catch of a Marcus Semien drive to open the bottom of the sixth.

“It was unbelievable,” Skaggs said. “That was a game-changer for me personally. Just a huge, really huge play.”

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Circling the mound afterward, Skaggs applauded into his glove and then raised his hand to salute Calhoun.

“I thought he wasn’t going to catch it,” Trout admitted. “But that’s Kole.”

When Skaggs was finished, the bullpen was just starting. Entering with one out in the seventh, Blake Wood retired the first batter he faced. He then allowed a single to Chapman and hit Jonathan Lucroy with a 1-2 pitch.

With a sense of doom beginning to stir, the game’s next big strike was delivered by Angels catcher Martin Maldonado, who picked off Lucroy at first base to suddenly end the inning.

“It was awesome,” said Maldonado, who was then asked if he preferred that play to hitting a home run. “I’d take this,” he said, “over a homer.”

The eighth inning belonged to Keynan Middleton, who gave up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Matt Joyce.

Firing his fastball in the upper 90s, Middleton responded thusly: strike out, ground out and fly out, stranding Joyce at third to set up the ninth for Parker.

The right-hander gave up two singles and a walk, the A’s scoring their only run with two outs on a Lucroy single. Parker then got Joyce on a ground ball to end it.

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“I think I was a little amped up going into it,” said Parker, whose biggest issue was command of his fastball. “First opportunity to get a save. Just take that experience into the next one and be a little more relaxed.”

Trout’s impact Friday happened quickly. After falling behind in the count 0-2 in the first inning, he worked his way back to 3-2 and then hit an 84-mph Sean Manaea changeup on a line at 110 mph into some empty concrete seats beyond left field.

In his first plate appearance after going hitless in six opening day at-bats — something Trout never had done in his career — he needed barely a minute to set the Angels’ world right again.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler made his Angels debut after missing the opener because of groin tightness.

He finished with a single in four at-bats but was pulled from the game entering the bottom of the ninth. Manager Mike Scioscia said Kinsler was lifted because of “fatigue.”

More notable was the player who didn’t start Friday.

One day after going 1 for 5 in his first big-league game, Shohei Ohtani wasn’t in the lineup, Scioscia going with Chris Young at designated hitter.

With the left-handed Manaea starting for Oakland, Scioscia said he liked the matchup with Young and also wanted to get the team’s fourth outfielder some at-bats.

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Ohtani was available to pinch-hit or pinch-run, his speed considered exceptional.

Scioscia further explained that Ohtani will not be used offensively Saturday, unless the circumstances of the game become so extreme that the Angels have no other choice.

Ohtani is scheduled to make his pitching debut Sunday in the finale of this four-game series. As of now, the plan is to limit his use as much as possible right before he starts.

“The day before he pitches,” Scioscia said, “is definitely a day where we’re going to want him to get into that pitching mode.”

jmiller2929@yahoo.com


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