It was not a particularly remarkable night at Angel Stadium on Thursday. The ballpark was lightly populated. The chill of an early-season evening set in. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did not play.
But, as the temperature dipped toward 60 degrees, you could close your eyes and see the promise of October.
The Angels are in a pretty good place, all things considered. They are three games out of first place in the American League West after a 6-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The Angels have won four consecutive games, and six of their past seven.
“Hopefully we can take this good mojo,” pitcher Tyler Skaggs said, “and take it on the road with us.”
Skaggs took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and worked into the seventh for the victory. Kole Calhoun hit a two-run home run. Albert Pujols hit two doubles, two years to the day from the last time he did it.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons earned the save, and never mind the detail that he does not pitch. With Skaggs in quite the jam in the sixth inning — the Blue Jays had two men on base, one out, and the tying run at the plate — Simmons positioned himself to catch a shallow liner behind second base.
At the last second, he let the ball fall to the ground. He rushed to second base for a force play, then started the relay that trapped the unsuspecting Randal Grichuk off the base for the third out.
Even some of Simmons’ teammates were unsuspecting.
“I was honestly confused out there,” Skaggs said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I just kind of stood on the mound. And then everybody started running off, so I ran off.”
As he watched the brief flight of the ball, Angels manager Brad Ausmus allowed himself to hope that Simmons might actually try that kind of play.
“I don’t think that I’ve seen a smarter player than Andrelton Simmons,” Ausmus said.
And all that Angels goodness without a mention of Mike Trout, who homered, singled and kept alive his streak of reaching base in all 29 of his games this season, and Shohei Ohtani, who had six simulated at-bats Thursday afternoon and could be activated from the injured list as soon as next week. The Angels also have stud prospect Griffin Canning newly inserted into their starting rotation.
The Angels have a winning record against the AL Central, the AL East, and the National League. They are 5-12 against the AL West, but they play their next two games within the division, nine of their following 15 games against AL Central teams with losing records, and then 16 consecutive games within their division.
That, ladies and gentlemen and halos of all ages, is opportunity calling.
The Angels have long had openings for reliable starters at the head of their rotation, and they have long believed Skaggs could fill one of those openings if only he could stay healthy enough to develop and prosper.
This could be the year. As he no-hit the Blue Jays for the first four innings Thursday, he extended his string of scoreless innings to nine — a sort-of shutout, and a nice building block. In all, he worked six innings, giving up two runs and four hits, striking out five.
His 3.12 ERA makes him one of four AL West pitchers — and the only Angel — to pitch at least 20 innings with so low an ERA.
Calhoun started the scoring in the second inning, with a home run that drove in Pujols and gave the Angels a 2-0 lead. Calhoun leads the Angels with eight home runs; Trout has seven.
The Angels collected three more runs over the next two innings, with the assistance of the Blue Jays. The Angels got a bases-loaded walk in the third inning, and a Simmons single in the fourth scored two runs instead of one when Toronto right fielder Alen Hanson overran the ball for an error.
The Angels swept Toronto at home. Their next 11 games are on the road, on a geographically wacky journey from Monterrey, Mexico. to Detroit, then Baltimore, then Minneapolis.