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.