If there really is one game left of Mike Scioscia’s tenure as Angels manager, Saturday night’s 5-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium isn’t likely to stick out to the 59-year-old.
Not in a fond way, at any rate. The loss meant the Angels, who had won four games in a row to climb within reach of a .500 record, would not avoid a losing season. They dropped to 79-82 in 2018 with one game remaining. For three consecutive years, the Angels have lost more than they have won.
But on the eve of what is expected to be the finale of his career in an Angels uniform, the Angels tried to make sure the results of a meaningless game in late September would hold little weight, if any, in Scioscia’s mind.
They made Saturday night count in other ways. They distributed bobbleheads modeled in Scioscia’s likeness to the first 30,000 spectators to walk through the gates. The boxes holding the figurines listed his accomplishments in 19 seasons as manager.
The Angels also commemorated his career by showing short montages of his milestones on the video boards between innings. Among the highlights: beating the San Francisco Giants for the 2002 World Series championship, leading the Angels to 100 regular-season wins for the first time in club history in 2008 and earning manager-of-the-year honors for the second time in his career in 2009.
Still, a distraction from the presumed end of Scioscia’s time in Anaheim would have been welcome for the announced crowd of 43,762, many of whom were likely drawn by a combination of nostalgia and a trio of late-season promotions (Saturday was also fan appreciation night and Japan day).
Instead, those gathered saw the A’s pitching staff confound Angels hitters. Their bats were, for the most part, silenced by starter Liam Hendriks and veteran right-hander Trevor Cahill, who had pitched four scoreless innings when he was replaced in the sixth inning. Six Angels managed to reach base against the two, but only two did via hits. One was pegged by an errant Cahill pitch, two drew a walk from Cahill and another reached base on an error by third baseman Matt Chapman. Second baseman Kaleb Cowart was the only Angel to drive in a run on a hit. On his fifth-inning single, shortstop Andrelton Simmons scored an unearned run and rookie Taylor Ward was thrown out trying to advance from first base to third base.
The futility did not end when the Angels threatened Oakland’s three-run lead in the seventh. Simmons hit a leadoff single against Fernando Rodney. Rodney issued three free passes and watched Simmons trot home after issuing a bases-loaded walk to Jose Fernandez. But the Angels made no more successful contact. MVP candidate Mike Trout, the batter after Fernandez, lofted a fly ball to deep right field to strand three runners and deprive fans of seeing what might have been his 40th home run.
If indeed this is the end of their alliance, the Angels at least have another chance to send their manager out with a win Sunday afternoon. If they succeed, Scioscia will reach the end of his record-setting 10-year contract having locked up his 1,650th win.
Angels starter Tyler Skaggs wrapped up his turbulent season Saturday night with 3 1/3 innings, over which he yielded four hits, two walks and three runs. He finished 2018 with career highs in ERA (4.02) in starts (24), but the final statistics might have been more impressive had injuries not waylaid what had been an All-Star worthy campaign.
Through his 19th start of the season, Skaggs owned a 2.62 ERA (32 earned runs in 110 innings). He had limited opponents to eight home runs.
The script flipped dramatically with his inability to shake off adductor strains that forced him to the disabled list three separate times this summer. In his final five starts, he allowed six homers and issued nine walks. He did not make it through four innings in any of those outings.