The Associated PressARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Kole Calhoun circled the bases after a punctuating home run for the grieving Los Angeles Angels in their first game since 27-year-old pitcher Tyler Skaggs died.
As the stocky outfielder approached home plate, he raised both arms above his head, pointed upward while looking at the sky and let loose with some of his emotion in a message for his fallen teammate.
“We know we’ve got an angel watching over us now,” Calhoun said after the game, surrounded by teammates in a display of unity in the media interview room for the Texas Rangers, with their clubhouse closed to reporters.
“When I got to the plate, it felt right to pay some respect to him, and like I said, we know we’ve got somebody watching over us up there.”
Before Calhoun’s two-run shot in the eighth inning, Justin Bour delivered a two-run single on the first pitch he saw after replacing injured American League All-Star Tommy La Stella in the sixth, helping the Angels pull away in a 9-4 win over the Rangers on Tuesday night.
The uplifting victory came a day after Skaggs was found unresponsive and pronounced dead in his room at the team’s hotel before what was supposed to be the series opener Monday. That game was postponed.
“No, it wasn’t normal,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “And it felt like there was much more urgency to win. It’s been a rough 24 hours, and we haven’t had a lot to smile about, so a win would give us something.”
A few hours after watching with his teammates as Ausmus struggled to keep his composure in a news conference to discuss Skaggs’ shocking death, Jonathan Lucroy had a tying two-run single in the sixth inning and finished with three RBIs.
Bour, with a .194 average, entered the game on a full count with two outs in the sixth after La Stella, a first-time All-Star as a reserve, fouled a 156 kph fastball from Texas reliever Jose Leclerc off his right leg, just below the knee. The second baseman had to be helped off the field and was to be re-evaluated Wednesday for a right shin contusion.
After grounding a high fastball into right field with the bases loaded to send home Mike Trout and Justin Upton, Bour touched his chest twice and tipped the bill of his batting helmet before pointing skyward. Upton had put the Angels ahead for good with an RBI single.
Bour has been through this before, with the Miami Marlins in 2016 when pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident late in the season.
“Like it’s been said before, there’s really no playbook for this,” Bour said. “I know how tough it’s going to be every single day. And it takes a really long time for it to sink in. And it still, sometimes it just doesn’t.”
The game was notably subdued, with the Rangers skipping the normal walk-up music for their hitters and between-inning promotions along with the customary display of fireworks that accompanies the theme song from the movie “The Natural” on home runs.
Delino Deshields circled the bases without the usual fanfare after his second homer of the season , a solo shot down the line in left for a 2-1 lead in the third.
Skaggs’ No. 45 was painted in bright Angels red on the back of the mound, and both scoreboards had the late left-hander’s number next to the display of balls, strikes and outs on both of the primary scoreboards, high above left-center and right field.
There were a few smiles, such as when Luis Rengifo of the Angels joked with Texas second baseman Rougned Odor while returning to first base after running on a pitch before a foul ball in the fourth inning.
Mostly, though, the game was just what Texas slugger Joey Gallo said he thought it would be beforehand: strange and quiet, starting with the moment of silence before the first pitch.
“It felt different, there’s no doubt,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “The lack of music, you don’t realize it until it’s not there. We just felt like that was the right thing to do for them.”