Tyler Skaggs and the Angels can’t hold on in loss to Seattle Mariners, 8-6
When he took the mound at 7 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field, buoyed by a three-run lead, Tyler Skaggs had not given up a run in one month, across five starts at triple-A and the majors.
Within five minutes, he had. And what followed reminded him that this will not all be easy, that the road representing his return from Tommy John surgery has bumps yet. After dominating Kansas City and Boston, Skaggs struggled against Seattle, absent command of his spiking curveball. He walked three Mariners, struck out four, and yielded nine hits and four runs in the Angels’ 8-6 loss.
“It was humbling,” Skaggs said. “It’s the majors. You can’t just fall behind and expect to blow fastballs by people.”
Skaggs’ starts in the final two months of the 2016 season will be symbolic of all the Angels, in that they will be important not because of what they might mean for this season, but for the future. Just, in his case, it’ll be more obvious, as Skaggs simply needs to make starts to build up a base for 2017.
Conventional wisdom says young starting pitchers cannot surpass their prior season’s innings by much more than 20%. At 25, Skaggs is not so young anymore, but, coming off surgery, he’s considered more susceptible than most.
Saturday’s start brought his 2016 total to 57 innings across all levels. If he averages six innings hereafter, he will finish the season at 117, his most to date in the major leagues. That could still force an abbreviated 2017, but every additional inning helps.
Skaggs still exited Saturday’s game with a win intact, as the Angels began the game with force. After Yunel Escobar battled for an eight-pitch walk to lead off, Kole Calhoun whacked a first-pitch double to left-center, and Mike Trout slammed a Taijuan Walker splitter 444 feet, for a three-run homer. He opened Friday night’s game, too, with a three-run shot to left-center. Off his bat, Saturday’s shot was clocked at 110 mph, the same speed as his Friday homer.
Trout tacked on a triple in the third, and the Angels had their six runs by the fourth inning. Skaggs had allowed only one more run by then, a solo shot in the third.
He escaped that inning when ex-Angel Shawn O’Malley’s fly ran out at the left-field warning track, and, after a two-run home run by Franklin Gutierrez, escaped further damage in the fifth when Kyle Seager’s drive died on the right-field track.
After consecutive singles to begin the sixth, Skaggs issued a walk to load the bases for Gutierrez, who had not made an out in three prior at-bats. In came Mike Morin, who threw three straight sliders low and then a fastball high. Swinging 3-0, Gutierrez popped it up to Andrelton Simmons. Robinson Cano followed by popping up another ball to temporarily cease the threat.
But, with a two-run lead in the seventh, Manager Mike Scioscia turned to newcomer Jose Valdez. He walked the bases loaded while recording only one out.
“He just lost his release point,” Scioscia said.
Scioscia pulled him for Deolis Guerra, who served up a sacrifice fly and then encountered O’Malley, the utility infielder signed with the Angels and ex-general manager Jerry Dipoto as a minor league free agent in December 2013. A year and a day later, after making his major league debut in September, Dipoto and the Angels released him. The next month, he signed with his hometown Mariners, and Saturday became the biggest night of his life when he lifted a drive to right field that did not stop at the track.
With Dipoto now the Mariners’ general manager and ex-Angels executive Scott Servais their manager, O’Malley’s game-winner only added to the budding rivalry tally between the two teams. Scioscia bristled at a postgame question about what went into the decision to release the player two winters ago.
“What went into the decision? You’ll have to ask the GM,” Scioscia said. “Decisions are always made.”
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura
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