Leadoff spark erased as Skaggs stumbles

Lefty allows eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in loss

May 9th, 2019

DETROIT -- Angels manager Brad Ausmus tried blaming ' poor command Wednesday night on the chilly and brisk weather at Comerica Park.

Not even Skaggs was buying it.

After allowing a combined two earned runs in his previous two starts, Skaggs was tagged for eight runs, seven earned, and lasted just 4 1/3 innings in the Angels’ 10-3 loss to the Tigers.

“I don’t know if he had trouble with the grip because of the weather or dryness, I’m not really sure,” Ausmus said. “But it seemed like that was the issue.”

According to Skaggs, it wasn’t.

“I mean, you know what? I’m not going to make excuses for myself,” Skaggs said. “Some days you’ve got it, some days you don’t. I felt pretty good, but they hit some bad pitches.”

For the second time in three games, Angels second baseman David Fletcher led off the game with a homer. And for the second time in three games, the Halos couldn’t capitalize.

It was an ugly appearance for Skaggs, and an even uglier all-around performance for the Angels, who combined for just three hits off Tigers starter Matthew Boyd. Boyd had six strikeouts, including two while facing Mike Trout and one against two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

Meanwhile, there was little to praise from Skaggs’ start, not even his trademark curveball, which fell flat and on several occasions hung over the middle of the plate.

Tigers second baseman Ronny Rodriguez sent a hanging curveball to the wall in center for a go-ahead, two-run triple in the first inning. Rodriguez also added an RBI single in the two-run third and a run-scoring double in the four-run fifth to put Detroit up, 7-1.

“I’m not going to consider it a setback,” Skaggs said. “I’m just as confident if I give up 10 runs or no runs. I know I’m a big league pitcher. I know I can go out there every five days and continue to keep it rolling. Just a small bump.”

Skaggs entered Wednesday with a 3.12 ERA after allowing just two runs in two starts since coming off the injured list. But he struggled with command from the get-go, which was made clear when he hit Nicholas Castellanos on the shoulder with an 0-2 pitch to start the third inning.

“Right around the fourth, I thought he hit a little bit of a stride,” Ausmus said. “I guess it was in the fifth, he got two outs, but the wheels kind of came off.”

Skaggs recorded two quick outs in the fifth, but then gave up four straight hits, including back-to-back RBI doubles that prompted a mound visit from pitching coach Doug White. Three pitches later, Tigers designated hitter Brandon Dixon laced a hanging curveball up the middle for a run-scoring single that effectively ended Skaggs’ night.

“I was just kind of erratic,” Skaggs said. “They hit my mistakes. I thought I was going to wiggle out of it, but I couldn’t close the door in the fifth.”

But, as Ausmus alluded to in his postgame comments, temperatures dropped to the low 50s, which could’ve made it difficult for Skaggs to get a solid grip on the ball.

“It was dry and a little cool,” Ausmus said. “Cold, really, compared to what we’re used to.”

While that may have been the case for Skaggs, Boyd certainly didn’t have a problem finding his grip. After his night began with the home run off the bat of Fletcher, Boyd was able to limit the Angels to just two hits the rest of the way.

“[Boyd] had good command, a good fastball, and a good break on his slider,” Ohtani said through a translator. “He found a way to keep our whole offense quiet.”

Despite what was arguably Skaggs' worst start of the season, Ausmus wasn't willing to pin the loss entirely on the 27-year-old lefty. Ausmus is well aware that Skaggs has the tools to be a front-end starter -- but only if he’s capable of controlling his pitches, particularly his breaking ball.

“That curveball is such a big pitch for him,” Ausmus said. “And if he has trouble commanding it, it’s going to affect the outcome.”