Angels’ streak is snapped
In retaining their postseason dreams, the Angels have counted on welcoming back a number of injured pitchers down this season’s stretch run. Saturday served as a reminder that the presence of those pitchers guarantee little. The Angels must also allot time for them to find their form.
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs had not recaptured his form during his triple-A rehab assignment, but he made his much-anticipated return to a major league mound anyway.
In his first start since April 28, Skaggs spun some of his signature sharp curveballs and pumped fastballs up to 93 mph. On balance, he was ineffective in the Angels’ 5-0 loss to Oakland at Angel Stadium, lacking in rhythm to last as long as he and the team hoped.
“Tonight was not exactly what we needed,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But before he lost the feel for his curveball, he made some really good pitches with good velocity the whole night. There are a lot of positives we can take away from this.”
Rajai Davis swung at Skaggs’ first pitch of the game and shot it into right field for a single. When Skaggs next threw home, Davis took off for second base and stole it easily.
Last August in Cleveland, Davis terrorized Skaggs with three of the Indians’ record seven stolen bases against him. The pitcher was vexed to see it continue Saturday.
“I don’t know what his deal is,” Skaggs said. “He reads me like a book. It’s frustrating. It doesn’t matter what I do. Maybe if I just throw it underhand over there, I’ll be OK.”
Skaggs then twirled two curves, both of which Marcus Semien missed to strike out swinging. After walking Jed Lowrie, Skaggs threw away a two-strike curve to Khris Davis. The wild pitch scored the first Athletic of the game. Skaggs induced a groundout and struck out Ryon Healy on three pitches to walk off the mound.
Skaggs pitched a perfect second and a satisfactory third. In the fourth, he benefitted from an odd out call on an apparent infield single, but still surrendered a ground-rule double, two singles and a walk, netting Oakland two more runs.
The 29-pitch inning meant Skaggs’ total climbed to 83, and Scioscia provided him no more rope, calling on three relievers for the five remaining innings.
“It was fun all the way until the fourth inning,” Skaggs said of his abbreviated evening.
The Angels faced a rookie right-hander, Paul Blackburn, who was making his seventh major league start. He does not throw hard nor wield a particularly sharp secondary pitch, but he sinks his fastball, and that stymied the Angels.
Over Blackburn’s six innings, they pounded 13 balls into the ground, 10 of which Oakland converted into outs. The 23-year-old struck out only one Angel but did not walk anyone. Against him, the Angels only once had more than one man on base, in the third inning.
At its best, Skaggs’ curveball resembled the pitch in his past stretches of dominance. At its worst, it made him susceptible to the wild pitches and stolen bases that have plagued him in the past.
The same was true in his three-start stint for triple-A Salt Lake, where he failed to finish five innings once while recovering from an oblique strain. Scioscia noted before the game that Skaggs had sometimes lost the desired release point for the pitch.
“He’ll be better next time,” Scioscia said. “At least he got out there.”
The Angels (55-56) had a four-game winning streak broken and fell back to 21⁄2 games behind Kansas City in the tepid chase for the American League’s second wild-card spot.
AFTER THROWING a first-inning wild pitch, the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs is unable to come up with a throw to nab Oakland’s Rajai Davis, who slides into home. Skaggs gave up three runs in four innings.