Fresh off the best start of his up-and-down season, in which two mistake pitches staked him to a loss despite an otherwise promising seven-inning outing in Seattle last week, Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs took a step back. He overworked himself early, lost velocity late and failed to give the Angels a boost in Thursday night’s 7-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium.
He was so off his game that manager Brad Ausmus went back on his pregame assertion that he wouldn’t piggyback Skaggs and Jaime Barria, who was recalled from triple-A Salt Lake for the fourth time this season. He had hoped Skaggs would build on the momentum of his most recent start and save the Angels from dipping into the bullpen too early for a second game in a row.
“Hopefully, Skaggs is on his game tonight and pitches deep,” Ausmus said.
In four-plus innings, Skaggs, who last season pitched like an All-Star while toting a spectacular 2.64 earned-run average through the first half of the season, issued a season-high four walks and gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits.
Skaggs pitched perfect innings in the first and third but created messes around them.
For instance, he left the bases loaded in the second, an inning that started with a leadoff single from Khris Davis and saw two batters draw walks. His pitch count had eclipsed 40 by the time he returned to the bench.
“I felt great the first inning, thought I threw the ball really well and then the wheels fell off after I gave up a hit and kind of got out of whack out of the stretch,” Skaggs said. “It’s frustrating. It shouldn’t happen. This loss is on me.”
In the fourth, after Davis whiffed at a high-and-outside 94 mph fastball for a strikeout, the Athletics mounted a rally by small cuts. They strung together four straight singles. Two of the hits knocked home first runs of the game. The Athletics tacked on a third for a 3-0 lead.
“I think I got too cute,” Skaggs said.
As he traversed that bumpy stretch, Skaggs’ pitches seemed to retain integrity. His fastball hovered in the low 90s where it usually resides and his curveball kept its bite. Only his command and aggressiveness in two-strike counts had started wobble.
Then it all went.
After the Angels mounted their own three-single parade, which featured Shohei Ohtani’s only hit of the night and Brian Goodwin’s sacrifice fly, Skaggs labored to find the strike zone and his velocity. His pitches lost their edge; strikes eluded him.
Chad Pinder and Matt Chapman drew back-to-back walks as Skaggs’ pitch count climbed to 88. Davis came to the plate and swung three times in the span of four pitches. The final one — a high fastball that registered at 88.7 mph, according to PITCHf/x data — was shot weakly into right field for a single that gave the Athletics a 4-1 lead.
“Those four innings I threw a lot of pitches and was working my ass off trying to not have them score,” Skaggs said. “I’m not gonna say I was tired but at the same time it is what it is, you try to grind through it.”
Ausmus removed Skaggs before he could record an out. His 2019 ERA now is at 4.94 through 11 starts.
Barria, pitching for the Angels for the first time since he allowed seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings on April 27, held his own. He was charged only one run — a homer by Stephen Piscotty in the seventh — after scattering three hits and striking out six in five innings. The only time the Athletics forced him to labor was in that fifth inning. With a runner threatening to tag up at third base with no outs, Goodwin caught a fly ball off the bat of Piscotty. He tried to relay the ball to the infield but it plopped onto the grass mere feet away.
“He did a nice job,” Ausmus said of Barria after the Angels fell to 30-33. “He had five strikeouts or so. Was able to chew up the rest of the innings and save the guys in the bullpen from having to throw at all. So you know, not the way you want to draw it up because you’d rather get the ‘W’ but there is a silver lining.”