ARLINGTON, Texas — Tyler Skaggs weighed heavy on the minds of Mike Trout and all of the Los Angeles Angels in their first game since death of the much-loved 27-year-old pitcher.
“I can’t explain it man. Lost a teammate, lost a friend, a brother. Just got to get through it,” a visibly shaken Trout said after the Angels 9-4 win at Texas on Tuesday night.
“It’s tough. My first at-bat, I get up there, all I do is think about him,” added the All-Star center fielder, who was in the same Angels draft class as Skaggs in 2009. “Just a different feeling, just in shock, it’s like walking around the hotel, you’re just always thinking about him.”
The Angels decided to play a day after the postponement of the series opener against the Rangers. Skaggs was found unresponsive in his hotel room in Texas on Monday. A cause of death has not been reported.
Before Angels starter Jose Suarez threw his first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, the left-hander appeared to write something in the dirt with his finger. He then touched the No. 45 painted on the back of the mound and tapped his heart.
Justin Bour pointed skyward after his two-run single in the sixth inning, when the Angels went ahead to stay with four runs to break a 3-3 tie. Kole Calhoun was more emphatic with his reaction when crossing home plate after his two-run homer in the eighth.
“No, it wasn’t normal. And it felt like there was much more urgency to win,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s been a rough 24 hours, and we haven’t had a lot to smile about, so a win would give us something.”
There was a moment of silence before the game, with the players followed their coaches lined up outside the dugout. Pitchers Andrew Heaney and Cam Bedrosian held Skaggs’ No. 45 jersey.
“It was just kind of something unplanned. His jersey was hanging in his locker. We wanted to take him out there with us one more time,” Heaney said. “He was definitely my best friend. There’s probably about 100 other people out there that would say he was their best friend too. Because he treated everybody like that.”
Trout and his teammates said Skaggs, who brought so much energy to the clubhouse, wouldn’t have wanted them to take another day off.
“It’s going to be tough these next couple of days, the rest of the season, the rest of our life, to lose our friend,” Trout said.
“Today it was just different, and there’s no playbook on how it’s supposed to go today and you’re supposed to act and react,” Calhoun said. “But getting back to the game definitely is what he would have wanted. Today was a day that we leaned on each other like we really needed to do.”
Bour hit the only pitch he faced after taking over the full count of All-Star second baseman Tommy La Stella, who fouled off a pitch that hit him squarely on his right shin. La Stella didn’t put any pressure on his leg while helped off the field.
Public address announcer Chuck Morgan introduced the moment of silence by saying the Rangers offered their deepest sympathies and condolences to Skaggs’ family, his teammates and the entire Angels organization.
The introductions of the starting lineups by Morgan before that were uncharacteristically subdued, and the Rangers ran to their positions for the start of the game quietly without any music playing in the stadium.
When Rangers batters were introduced, there was no walk-up music played. Also missing were the normal between-inning shenanigans and the fireworks that usually marked Texas homers — Delino DeShields went deep in the third inning.
“There are no words to express our sadness today,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said before the game.
Ausmus said the team gathered together a couple of times Monday at the team hotel about 20 miles from the ballpark. He wiped away tears when speaking about Skaggs before the game.
Asked about his message to his players, Ausmus said that was a “family conversation” that would remain between them.
General manager Billy Eppler described Skaggs as a teammate, a brother, a friend and most importantly a husband and a son who “brought joy to everybody around him.”
Angels players wore a black encircled patch with No. 45 above the heart of their uniforms.
With the team out of town, fans went to Angel Stadium, where they left flowers, hats, baseballs, signs, photos and other memorabilia in a makeshift memorial mound.
The poignant display resembled the fan-created memorial for Nick Adenhart in 2009 after the rookie pitcher was killed by a drunk driver. That tribute stayed out front of the Big A through the summer.
Team president John Carpino said the Angels would pay tribute to Skaggs in much the same way they did Adenhart, who was killed after only his fourth major league game.
“The way we’ll honor them both is just watching these guys play,” Carpino said, referring to the players sitting to his left before the game. “As far as the stadium, just typical with a patch and all that, but honoring him so much more with our thoughts and our hearts is the most important thing.”