Sports can sometimes seem scripted, as fairy tale narratives unfold before our eyes in ways that we could never have imagined.
This was the case for the Los Angeles Angels tonight, in their first home game played since losing starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs two weeks ago.
Before the game began, Skaggs mother Debbi foreshadowed things to come when she took the mound to threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Debbie delivered a perfect strike to her son’s best friend Andrew Heaney, which was just the start of a remarkable night. Every Angel took the field against the Seattle Mariners wearing Skaggs’ No. 45 jersey . With Skaggs in their minds and in their hearts, the Angels delivered one of the most perfect games imaginable to honor their fallen teammate.
Offensively, Mike Trout got the night started for the Angles on the first pitch he saw, hitting a ball to the heavens for a monster two-run homer.
Trout put together a stellar night at the plate, with that home run, two doubles and six RBIs, leading the Angels to scoring 13 runs. The Angels put together a seven-run first inning and scored in all but three innings, in a night where it seemed like every member of the team got involved.
While the offense was great, the best way to honor Skaggs was to dominant on the same mound where he had so many great moments in his young career. Debbie Skaggs opened the game with a strike and Taylor Cole picked up where she left off by pitching two perfect innings to start the game.
But Cole was just meant to be the opener, as the Angels have often employed that strategy for most of Felix Pena’s “starts” this year. So after Cole made his way through two innings, he handed the ball over to Pena and the 29-year-old righty did the rest.
Pena needed just 81 pitches to work his way through the last seven innings of the game, as he struck out six batters, walked one and most importantly, did not allow a single hit.
Skaggs spirit was definitely in the building on this night, as it seemed like a higher power was there to guide the Angels through this game. In fact, it was almost as if those Angels in the Outfield movies was playing out in real life, as everything came easy for the Angels in that brilliant performance.
Skaggs was a starting pitcher that was just beginning to establish himself in the game. He was leading the Angels in both wins and strikeouts at the time of his passing. The Angels winning this game 13-0 would have been a great story in of itself. But for them to throw a combined no-hitter under all of these circumstances, it truly is one of those moments in sports that is inexplicable.
In the end, this is why we watch sports. Sports can be a personification of life. There is ups and downs. We often have to overcome more obstacles than we enjoy successes. And in the worst of circumstances, we have to deal with tragedy.
In the end though, sports can produce moments like this no-hitter, that transcend everything else to give us something to cheer about.
Carlos Correa Hits Walk-Off Homer in the 11th Inning to Tie ALCS at a Game Apiece
Back in 2017, the Houston Astros played the New York Yankees in the ALCS and dropped the first game of the series at home.
Justin Verlander started Game 2 and threw a complete game, carrying a tie to the bottom of the ninth inning for the Astros. Jose Altuve singled to lead off that frame and then Carlos Correa hit a walk-off double to tie the series.
Now two years later, in a game that Verlander happened to start as well, Correa once again came up to the plate with a chance to win a game for his team.
This time, the shortstop delivered the second postseason walk-off hit of his career in grand fashion, drilling an opposite field home run in the 11th inning.
That home run was just the finishing touch to an amazing game by Correa.
In the second inning, Correa drove in the first run of the game with an RBI double that brought Alex Bregman home.
Verlander was excellent for the Astros, pitching against a very tough Yankees lineup. He threw 6 2/3 innings, yielding just five hits and two runs, with seven strikeouts.
The runs he allowed came on a two-run homer off the bat of Aaron Judge in the fourth inning.
While the Yankees took a 2-1 lead on Judge’s home run, George Springer hit a home run of his own in the fifth inning to tie the game.
Another turning point came in the sixth inning, when the Yankees were rallying against Verlander.
With two runners on, Brett Gardner ripped a base hit that ricocheted off of Jose Altuve, falling in no-man’s land up the middle.
The Yankees sent D.J. LeMahieu around to try to score on the play, but Correa once again came through in the clutch, making a heads-up play and gunning down the runner at the plate.
The game would remain tied until the 11th inning, with the Astros bullpen using five pitchers to get 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Then came Correa’s walk-off in the bottom of the 11th and the series is now all tied up as it heads to New York City for Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Hopefully we are in for a long series, as this really might be a matchup of the two best teams in baseball.
Nationals Take Commanding 2-0 Lead Back to Washington in the NLCS
The Washington Nationals are in prime position to go to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Washington now returns home to play three games with the chance to clinch the series by winning two games in front of their fans.
For the Nationals it has been their pitching that has carried them thus far against the Cardinals, as St. Louis has been helpless against their starters.
In Game 1, the Nationals were forced to send out their No. 4 starter as their trio of aces were worn down from the series against the Dodgers. Luckily that starter was Anibal Sanchez, a long-time MLB veteran that has pitched in big games plenty of times in his career.
Sanchez was not fazed by the moment by any stretch and actually no-hit the Cardinals through seven innings.
It actually felt inevitable that the no-hitter would happen too, as no-hitters usually come with an incredible defensive play and Ryan Zimmerman delivered one in the eighth inning.
Unfortunately for Sanchez, he yielded a base-hit to Jose Martinez two batters later, ending his no-hit bid.
Still the most important thing for the Nationals was that Sanchez got them the 2-0 victory. But the craziness was just beginning for the Nationals, because the next day, it almost happened again.
Max Scherzer pitched Game 2 and he carried a no-hitter through six innings. Scherzer would not finish the no-hitter though, as Paul Goldschmidt laced a single to lead off the seventh inning.
In the end, Scherzer struck out 11 batters and did not yield a run across seven brilliant innings.
The thing that makes Sanchez and Scherzer’s back-to-back no-hit bids more incomprehensible is the fact that they actually had already done this before.
Back in 2013, when both pitchers were on the Detroit Tigers, Scherzer and Sanchez actually accomplished a similar feat.
This year’s version was more impressive however, as they are not only both 35 years old, but they also took their respective no-hit bids deeper into the game.
While the Nationals have to love the performances that those two veterans have given them thus far, they should hope that history stops repeating itself there.
That is because the Boston Red Sox came back in that series against Sanchez and Scherzer’s Tigers and won the ALCS in six games. Boston went on to win the World Series.
We will see if the Cardinals can turn their fate in a similar fashion when the series resumes on Monday night in Washington for Game 3.
Gerrit Cole Leads the Astros to the ALCS For Third-Straight Year
The Houston Astros are once again heading to the ALCS, as they continue their dynasty over the American League.
In the past two seasons, the Astros have won their division round mathcup rather easily, never facing an elimination game. However this year that changed, as the Tampa Bay Rays pushed them on the brink of elimination.
Tampa won Game 3 and Game 4 at home, forcing the series to return to Houston to play a Game 5 on Thursday night. But the Astros still had Gerrit Cole ready to pitch in that game and he was his usual dominant self.
Cole was spotted a four-run lead in the first inning, giving him ample run support. Then Cole did what any good ace does. He closed the door.
The hard-throwing righty allowed just two hits and one run across eight brilliant innings pitched.
In his first playoff start, Cole struck out 15 batters in a dominant performance. After reaching double digits again in Game 5, Cole put himself in elite company for accomplishing a rare postseason feat.
With Gerrit Cole in the rotation, the Astros stand a great chance to make it to the World Series and win their second title in three years. Cole was not with the Astros in 2017, giving him extra motivation to get his first World Series ring.
The first team standing in the way of that happening is the New York Yankees. The Yankees just came off sweeping the Minnesota Twins and will have been resting for five full days by the time Game 1 starts on Sunday.
That could give them a slight advantage over the Astros, but with a starting rotation that includes Cole and Justin Verlander, Houston will be ready to face whatever the Yankees throw at them.
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