The Angels continued to reassemble the pieces of a season shattered by the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs with a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on a steamy 90-degree Wednesday evening in Globe Life Park.
Mike Trout led a 12-hit attack with two home runs and four RBIs, and relievers Justin Anderson, Ty Buttrey, Cam Bedrosian and Hansel Robles combined for four hitless innings in which they struck out eight, as the Angels won their second straight game following Skaggs’ death.
“It was less emotional,” manager Brad Ausmus said, when asked if he sensed a change in the Angels’ disposition after their heart-wrenching return to action on Tuesday night. “I just think [Tuesday] and Monday were so emotional, and if it was that emotional again, these guys would be absolutely exhausted.
“Today was probably the first day when there was an occasional smile. But it’s still going to take time. This isn’t the type of thing that goes away quickly. And it may take longer for some people than others.”
While the fog has started to lift a little bit for the Angels, the shocking loss of their teammate remains shrouded in mystery.
Skaggs, a 27-year-old left-hander, was found dead in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room on Monday afternoon. The Southlake Police Department said that neither foul play nor suicide is suspected. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday, but results are not expected until early October.
When a seemingly healthy and vibrant professional athlete who has pitched in the big leagues for seven seasons dies in a hotel room and no cause of death — even a preliminary one — is given, there are far more questions than answers. But that hasn’t necessarily added an extra layer of confusion, fear or anger for the Angels.
“I think right now, there’s a hole created by Tyler’s passing,” Ausmus said. “We don’t know the cause, and regardless of the cause, it doesn’t make that hole go away.”
General manager Billy Eppler said he and the team’s coaches, players and front-office executives prefer to focus on celebrating the life of Skaggs.
“That’s it,” Eppler said. “You control your mind. We’re focused on losing a teammate, a brother, a friend, and celebrating who he was, what he’s meant to us. For us, all of that other stuff doesn’t matter.”
Trout, who said it was “good to get back in the routine of things, just to go out there and get your mind off it,” looked more comfortable at the plate than he did Tuesday night, when he said he could focus on nothing but Skaggs during his first at-bat.
The center fielder capped a four-run rally in the third inning with a three-run homer to right-center field off Rangers starter Ariel Jurado for a 4-0 lead.
He led off the sixth inning with a 111-mph laser inside the left-field foul pole, giving him 17 career multi-homer games, 24 homers on the season and eight in 12 games against the Rangers.
That mark tied a franchise record for most home runs against Texas in a season, held by Troy Glaus, who hit eight homers against the Rangers in 2001 and 2002, and Vladimir Guerrero, who hit eight against the Rangers in 2004.
“Trouty had a big night for us,” Ausmus said. “I’ll take two home runs every day.”
Matt Thaiss, called up from triple A on Wednesday, sparked the third-inning rally with a leadoff double to left-center field for a hit in his first big-league at-bat. Dustin Garneau singled, and Kole Calhoun hit an RBI single to right, the first of three hits for the right fielder.
“We’ve just stuck together,” said Upton, who left the game in the sixth inning because of tightness in his left quadriceps but said the injury isn’t serious. “That’s the only thing we can do.
“When we step on the field, we all know how tough it is to go back out there after what happened. As long as we have each other’s back, we can get through this thing.”
Jaime Barria, who was also called up from triple A Wednesday, gave up two runs and four hits in five innings, striking out eight — a career-high — and walking two to earn the win. The right-hander, who is among the candidates to fill the vacant rotation spot, said he drew inspiration from Skaggs.
“This game was totally dedicated to Tyler because he opened his arms when I got here,” Barria said through an interpreter. “He chose a Carlos Santana song that he played every time I was on the mound. He’s a great person, a great guy, and I’m going to miss him.”