ANAHEIM, Calif. - Fresh off the best start of his up-and-down season, in which two mistake pitches staked him to a loss despite an otherwise promising seven-inning outing in Seattle last week, Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs took a step back. He struggled and saw his velocity dip in Thursday night's 7-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium.
Manager Brad Ausmus said his intention was not to piggyback Skaggs and Jaime Barria, who was recalled to the major leagues from triple-A Salt Lake for the fourth time this season. He had hoped Skaggs would build on the momentum of his most recent start and save the Angels from dipping into the bullpen too early for a second game in a row.
"Hopefully, Skaggs is on his game tonight and pitches deep," Ausmus said.
And Barria, pitching for the Angels for the first time since he allowed seven earned runs in 12/3 innings on April 27, had no choice but to pitch the final five innings of the game.
Skaggs pitched perfect innings in the first and third but created messes around them.
For instance, he left the bases loaded in the second, an inning that started with a leadoff single from Khris Davis and saw two batters draw walks. His pitch count had eclipsed 40 by the time he returned to the bench.
In the fourth, after Davis whiffed at a high-and-outside 94 mph fastball for a strikeout, the Athletics mounted a rally by small cuts. They strung together four straight singles. Two of the base hits knocked home for the first runs of the game. The Athletics tacked on a third for a 3-0 lead.
Yet as he traversed that bumpy stretch, Skaggs' pitches seemed to retain integrity. His fastball hovered in the low 90s where it usually resides and his curveball kept its bite. Only his command had started wobble.
Then it all went.
After the Angels mounted their own three-single parade, which featured Shohei Ohtani's only hit of the night and Brian Goodwin's sacrifice fly, Skaggs labored to find the strike zone and his velocity. His pitches lost their edge; strikes eluded him.
Chad Pinder and Matt Chapman drew back-to-back walks as Skaggs' pitch count climbed to 88. Davis came to the plate and swung three times in the span of four pitches. The final one - a high fastball that registered at 88.7 mph, according to PITCH f/x data - was shot weakly into right field for a single that gave the Athletics a 4-1 lead.
Ausmus removed Skaggs before he could record an out. In four-plus innings, Skaggs, who last season pitched like an All-Star while toting a spectacular 2.64 earned-run average through the first half of the season, issued a season-high four walks and gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits. His 2019 ERA now is at 4.94 through 11 starts.
Barria held his own. He was charged only one run - a homer by Stephen Piscotty in the seventh - after scattering three hits and striking out six in five innings. The only time the Athletics forced him to labor was in that fifth inning. With a runner threatening to tag up at third base with no outs, Goodwin caught a fly ball off the bat of Piscotty. He tried to relay the ball to the infield but it slipped out of his hand and plopped onto the grass mere feet away.
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