ANAHEIM, Calif.–A night after honoring late teammate Tyler Skaggs with a combined no-hitter, the Angels on Saturday defeated the Seattle Mariners 9-2 at Angel Stadium.
The victory marked another special moment on a weekend that began with a moving tribute to Skaggs, who would have celebrated his 28th birthday Saturday. The night before, 7/13 was etched in the Angels' minds after they scored seven runs in the first inning, 13 overall, and no-hit the Seattle Mariners while wearing jerseys with Skaggs' name emblazoned above his number 45.
Together in 45s, the Angels watched Taylor Cole pitch two perfect innings and Felix Pena follow with seven no-hit innings. They orchestrated a more memorable tribute than anyone could have imagined.
The poignance of the no-hitter, which featured other eerie numerical coincidences – such as the correlation between the Angels' 11th no-hitter and Skaggs wearing No. 11 at Santa Monica High – lingered Saturday afternoon.
"You can't write a script like that," catcher Dustin Garneau said.
Cole echoed that sentiment.
"It just felt like there was something special about the night," he said. "Who would have ever thought in their wildest dreams something like that would happen?"
As players filtered in and out of the Angels clubhouse, some walked by Skaggs' locker. On a high shelf, Pena had placed his game ball from the night before, above a neat row of cleats and the socks Skaggs left hanging on a hook.
Manager Brad Ausmus likened Saturday's game to a restart, an opportunity for the Angels to regain some semblance of normalcy in their routine.
"Yesterday everyone was slapped in the face with the tragedy all over again," Ausmus said. "I do think that'll happen again. I think today will probably be step 2.1, so to speak."
It was perhaps even more so for beleaguered starter Matt Harvey. The one-time New York Mets ace who stumbled to a 7.50 ERA in his first 10 starts for the Angels this season began to correct course Saturday night. In his first major league start since Minnesota throttled him for eight runs May 23, Harvey navigated Seattle's lineup without much drama.
Harvey needed 57 pitches to get through the first three scoreless innings. After Mike Trout hit his eighth homer in seven games for a 5-0 lead in the third, Harvey locked in and threw 13 pitches in the fourth inning. An 11-pitch fifth helped him get through the Mariners' batting order twice on 81 pitches, a welcome milestone for the pitcher who spent nearly two months on the injured list nursing an upper-back strain.
Harvey, who was assigned a locker beside Skaggs' at the start of the season, gave up only one run in 52/3 innings and earned his first win since May 17. Mallex Smith, who tripled to open the sixth, scored on J.P. Crawford's sacrifice fly.
As the Angels tried to shake the emotional hangover, they assembled a more modest onslaught than Friday's 13-0 rout. Albert Pujols singled home Andrelton Simmons for the first run in the second inning. Kole Calhoun, the only Angel in the starting lineup not to reach base Friday night, deposited his 20th home run of the season over the center-field fence that bears an image of Skaggs preparing to throw a pitch.
David Fletcher, who finished the night with two hits and two RBIs, drove a ball to the opposite field that nearly cleared the fence in right. He settled for a run-scoring triple and a 3-0 advantage.
Pujols applied the final blow, a three-run homer in the seventh that put the game out of reach.
The tragic loss of Skaggs will hang over the Angels the rest of the season.
It might even color the rest of some careers, Trout said, referring to himself Friday night.
But for a second night in a row, the Angels set aside their grief and emerged victorious.
"Hopefully it can be a little bit more of when you think of him, you think of his jersey," pitcher Andrew Heaney said after Friday's game, "you think of his name, and it brings back positive memories."