ANAHEIM -- It was the kind of night that wouldn’t even sound believable if it were made up 35 miles northwest of Angel Stadium in Hollywood.
In their first home game since Skaggs’ death at 27 years old on July 1, and with a growing make-shift memorial outside the ballpark, the Angels paid tribute to Skaggs with a touching pregame ceremony that featured his mother, Debbie, throwing a perfect ceremonial first pitch. It set the tone for an incredible effort from Cole, serving as the opener, and Pena, as the two combined to surrender just one walk. Omar Narvaez was the lone player to reach base for Seattle, drawing a four-pitch walk against Pena in the fifth. The no-hitter was completed just hours before what would have been Skaggs’ 28th birthday.
"That was one of the most special moments I have been a part of on a Major League field, 25 years," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Just the way the game went, and culminating with a no-hitter. You feel like it's partly Skaggy's no-hitter."
Pena came out for the ninth at 76 pitches, and retired Mac Williamson and Dee Gordon for the first two outs before getting Mallex Smith to ground out sharply to second baseman Luis Rengifo for the final out. The grounder hit Rengifo in the chest before he recovered to make the play. Angels players rushed the field after the game in an emotional moment to celebrate the unbelievable accomplishment.
“When I saw Rengifo lose it for a moment, I thought ‘Wow, this can’t be happening,’” Pena said through an interpreter. “But then I saw him get the ball and throw to first and the runner was barely running. I thought, ‘Wow, this is happening right now.”
After the no-hitter, there was an incredibly emotional moment with Angels players meeting at the mound to lay down their No. 45 jerseys to honor Skaggs. In the center of the mound, they also placed a painting of Skaggs made by a fan. It was an idea conceived by hitting coach Jeremy Reed, who passed it on to Justin Upton.
“It was a great idea just to honor him one last time,” said center fielder Mike Trout. “It was a special moment for all of us as a team. What this team’s been through, this is obviously the worst thing that can happen for a team. Emotionally the team came together. To be out there where he loved to pitch from, where he dominated and threw that curveball, that came from the sky. Just to honor him one more time meant a lot to me. It was just a great, great moment for our team to stand around the mound and honor him again.”
It was the first no-hitter by the Angels since Jered Weaver threw one against the Twins in a 9-0 win on May 2, 2012, at Angel Stadium. That was previously the largest margin of victory in an Angels no-hitter. The last and only combined no-hitter by the club was on April 11, 1990, when Mark Langston and Mike Witt combined to no-hit the Mariners in a 1-0 win at Angel Stadium. It was also the fourth time the Mariners had been no-hit in their history, with the last one coming on Philip Humber's perfect game on April 21, 2012.
Rookie third baseman Matt Thaiss, who only started playing the position at Triple-A this year, preserved the no-hit bid with a diving stop and throw on a grounder hit to his left by Williamson in the sixth.
"It wasn't really a thought in my head at the time, but it's truly something special that happened tonight," Thaiss said. "No matter what your beliefs are or what you believe in, there was something helping out tonight."
It was a feeling shared by both the Angels and Mariners, who understood just how amazing and unlikely the no-hitter was on the same day Skaggs was honored.
“If that doesn’t give you chills or that doesn’t make you put life in perspective, I don’t know if you have a heartbeat,” said Mariners designated hitter Dan Vogelbach. “You start thinking about all the people that were affected by that situation, and especially you watch his mom and family walk out there, and just … we’re worried about if we get a hit or we win a ballgame, and they lost their son. So hats off to them and prayers for them, because I couldn’t imagine going through what they go through.”
Said Mariners manager Scott Servais: “There’s baseball gods, I’ve always said it. You know, it’s a crazy game we play. There’s a lot of emotion tied to it. You’re very close with the relationships you have with the people that you spend so much time with over the course of a season and a career, so it’s crazy how things happen.”
The Angels’ offense provided plenty of cushion to work with, as they scored seven runs in the first inning, powered by a two-run homer and a two-run double from Trout.
Trout, a close friend of Skaggs’ after they were both drafted together by the Angels in 2009, went 3-for-4 with a homer, two doubles, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and six RBIs.
"It was pretty incredible," Trout said of his first-inning homer on a first-pitch fastball. "He’s watching over everybody and he wants everybody to do good. I got a good pitch to hit and it went out. Just an incredible night for everyone."
Trout was in disbelief after the game and pointed out that the Angels scored seven runs in the first inning and had 13 hits overall, which correlates with what would’ve been Skaggs’ 28th birthday on Saturday (7/13). In another crazy coincidence dug up by Stats Inc., the last combined no-hitter thrown in the state of California was when the Orioles no-hit Oakland on July 13, 1991, which is the same day Skaggs was born.
“It’s just stuff you can’t make up,” said Trout, who has reached base exactly 45 percent of the time over his last 45 games. “Tonight was in honor of him, and he was definitely looking over us tonight. He’s probably up there saying we’re nasty and just what an unbelievable game to be a part of. I’m speechless. This is the best way possible to honor him. It was pretty crazy.”
Cole, serving as opener, threw two perfect innings with two strikeouts before handing it over to Pena in the third. Pena had posted a 6.98 ERA over his previous seven outings, but threw seven hitless frames with six strikeouts. The seven innings matched Pena's season high.
Ausmus said he never considered taking Pena out with the way he was pitching with a big lead, and was rewarded with one of the most memorable nights in the history of the franchise.
"It all started today with Debbie's first pitch," Cole said. "Couldn't have made a better pitch to get us going on the right foot. Just a really special night for our team, and for the fans, and for his family. It's definitely the most special thing that's ever happened to me on a baseball field.”