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Halos reach .500 behind Skaggs' strong night

@RhettBollinger
June 18, 2019

TORONTO -- It was the kind of outing that Tyler Skaggs has been searching for all season, and it helped the Angels reach .500 for the first time since April 15 with a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Skaggs, who had posted a

TORONTO -- It was the kind of outing that Tyler Skaggs has been searching for all season, and it helped the Angels reach .500 for the first time since April 15 with a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.

Skaggs, who had posted a 6.32 ERA over his last seven outings and hadn't gone deeper than seven innings in a start this season, threw 7 1/3 strong frames, surrendering one run on three hits with six strikeouts. The lone run he allowed came on a solo shot from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. with two outs in the fourth inning, the first hit allowed by Skaggs.

Box score

“It was clearly his best outing of the year, possibly our best start of the year," Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. "His curveball seemed to be getting chases or strikes, whether swinging or called. He used the changeup, even to lefties. He used the fastball up, especially on the inner half against right-handed hitters. He jammed a number of guys. Weak pop-ups, weak ground balls. He was really good.”

Skaggs believes that pitching aggressively and using his curveball led to his improved outing, but he was also motivated by Ausmus warming up Cam Bedrosian in the sixth despite having thrown just 70 pitches through his first five frames. Skaggs got through a 1-2-3 sixth, throwing his hardest pitch of the year on a 95 mph fastball to strike out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to end the inning.

“I told him after the inning, ‘Why is someone warming up? This is my game. That shouldn’t happen,’” Skaggs said. “Told him to hang up the phone.”

Ausmus explained he had Bedrosian up in case the first two batters of the inning reached, but was pleased to see Skaggs respond by retiring the final eight batters he faced.

“Just if a couple guys got on and something changed, it might make sense to go to a righty for two [right-handed hitters]," Ausmus said. "Skaggs took care of that.”

Skaggs, though, wouldn’t have picked up the win without the help of Kole Calhoun and Brian Goodwin both offensively and defensively.

Goodwin helped him avoid giving up a hit in the fourth, when he robbed Eric Sogard of extra bases with a diving grab in left-center for the first out. Goodwin covered 59 feet in 3.8 seconds, giving him a catch probability of 50 percent, per Statcast. It was rated as his third four-star catch of the year. It came just two batters before Gurriel’s solo homer.

“Phenomenal plays,” Skaggs said. “I wouldn’t have the outing I had today without that. Hats off to my teammates. They really picked me up.”

Calhoun and Goodwin then gave Skaggs some run support against right-hander Marcus Stroman in the fifth. Calhoun connected on a leadoff blast for his 16th homer of the year. After a first month that saw him bat .194, Calhoun has turned it around to hit .266/.359/.531 with nine homers, nine doubles and 22 RBIs in 41 games since May 1.

Three batters later, Goodwin smacked a solo blast of his own to give the Angels a 2-1 lead. It was Goodwin’s seventh homer of the year and his first since May 24. Goodwin has been relegated to fourth outfielder status after the return of Justin Upton on Monday, but will still get at-bats because the Angels are being cautious with Upton in the early going.

Calhoun’s turn to play hero defensively came in the bottom of the inning, when Randal Grichuk and Rowdy Tellez singled with nobody out. Grichuk, though, tried to reach third on Tellez’s single and Calhoun threw him out from right field for an important first out, Calhoun’s second outfield assist of the season. Shortstop Luis Rengifo then made an error on a grounder from Freddy Galvis but made up for it by completing a double play on a hard-hit liner from Danny Jansen to end the inning.

“That was huge actually," Ausmus said of Calhoun’s throw. "You go from nobody out and first and third to one out with a runner at first. That’s a big change. It could be potentially a game-changing play.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.