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In no-hitter, Angels found many ways to honor Tyler Skaggs

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It’s been an emotional two weeks for the Angels following the tragic death of 27-year-old Tyler Skaggs on July 1. They returned to Angel Stadium for their first home game of the month on Friday and promptly tossed a jaw-dropping 13-0 no-hitter, led by the combined efforts of rookie ‘opener’ Taylor Cole and righty Félix Peña.

Prior to the game’s triumphant conclusion, however, the Angels paid special homage to the late pitcher. Skaggs’ mother, Debbie, delivered the ceremonial first pitch to Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney—throwing a picture-perfect strike down the middle that, as Cole put it, set the tone for the rest of the night.

“It all started with Debbie,” Cole told reporters after the game. “She threw it right down the middle … couldn’t have started it with a better pitch.”

The team also held a moment of silence for Skaggs and played a video tribute. Around the ballpark, evidence of Skaggs’ legacy was clear. Outside the entrance, fans left flowers, candles, caps, and team memorabilia in a makeshift memorial. On the field, Skaggs’ jersey hung in the dugout, and a portrait of the young pitcher and a large no. 45 patch—the same design as the one they’ll wear on all uniforms for the rest of the 2019 season—were painted on the center field fence. In the clubhouse, as they’ve done on the road, the Angels maintained Skaggs’ locker.

In the moments after Peña delivered his 81st pitch of the night, a 1-0 fastball that the Mariners’ Mallex Smith returned to second base for a game-ending groundout, the Angels rallied together to honor their teammate once more. They removed the no. 45 jerseys they had each donned at the start of the game and placed them on the mound.

“He’s probably up there saying we’re ‘nasty,’” Mike Trout said in the postgame presser. “What an unbelievable game to be a part of. I’m speechless. This is the best way possible to honor him tonight.”

For others, the win felt therapeutic. “Everybody after the game, we’re running out on the field and everybody’s celebrating,” Heaney said in a quote captured by MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. “Three hours earlier, and I don’t know about anybody else, but I had tears in my eyes. You’re sort of reliving your bad memories, bad thoughts. Just for tonight and maybe moving forward, you kind of change your mindset from when you think about him. You’re thinking about the loss of a friend, of a teammate, whatever it may be. But moving forward, hopefully it can be a little bit more of when you think of him, you think of his jersey, you think of his name, it brings back positive memories.”

It wasn’t just that the no-hitter was tossed in their first home game since Skaggs’ death, or that the feat was completed on a night that already evoked such strong emotions from both the team and the crowd. It was also the fact that they pulled it off just 1.5 hours before Skaggs’ 28th birthday, scoring seven runs in the first inning and 13 runs total in the league’s 13th combined no-no to date. And the fact that, as Cole and Peña worked in tandem to build nine pristine innings against Seattle, they became the first pitchers to toss a combined no-hitter in California since July 13, 1991… the very day Skaggs was born.

Skaggs Case: Federal Agents have interviewed at least six current or former Angels players

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The Los Angeles Times reports that federal agents have interviewed at least six current and former Angels players as part of their investigation into the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Among the players questioned: Andrew Heaney, Noé Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, and Matt Harvey. An industry source tells NBC Sports that the interviews by federal agents are part of simultaneous investigations into Skaggs’ death by United States Attorneys in both Texas and California.

There has been no suggestion that the players are under criminal scrutiny or are suspected of using opioids. Rather, they are witnesses to the ongoing investigation and their statements have been sought to shed light on drug use by Skaggs and the procurement of illegal drugs by him and others in and around the club.

Skaggs asphyxiated while under the influence of fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol in his Texas hotel room on July 1. This past weekend, ESPN reported that Eric Kay, the Los Angeles Angels’ Director of Communications, knew that Skaggs was an Oxycontin addict, is an addict himself, and purchased opioids for Skaggs and used them with him on multiple occasions. Kay has told DEA agents that, apart from Skaggs, at least five other Angels players are opioid users and that other Angels officials knew of Skaggs’ use. The Angels have denied Kay’s allegations.

In some ways this all resembles what happened in Pittsburgh in the 1980s, when multiple players were interviewed and subsequently called as witnesses in prosecutions that came to be known as the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. There, no baseball players were charged with crimes in connection with what was found to be a cocaine epidemic inside Major League clubhouses, but their presence as witnesses caused the prosecutions to be national news for weeks and months on end.