Texas Rangers

After sweep by Twins, Rangers welcome Angels for first time since Skaggs’ death

Angels’ Kole Calhoun: ‘We know we have an angel watching over us now’

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun paid tribute to Tyler Skaggs when he crossed home plate after a home run in the Angels' 9-4 over the Rangers.
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Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun paid tribute to Tyler Skaggs when he crossed home plate after a home run in the Angels' 9-4 over the Rangers.

The Minnesota Twins left town Sunday evening for their next destination, a departure the Texas Rangers no doubt welcomed, and the Los Angeles Angels were to arrive a few hours later for the next series at Globe Life Park.

That’s the way teams cycle in and out of an MLB city on getaway day.

But this won’t be an ordinary trip for the Angels, though none of them could have imaged what happened their last time here.

They arrived laughing in cowboy costumes and left devastated without the teammate who inspired the idea.

The Angels and Rangers will play four games over the next three days in their first meeting since Tyler Skaggs passed away July 1 in his Southlake hotel room. The game that night was postponed, and the teams are scheduled to it make up Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.

It could be a difficult Monday for the Angels.

“You can’t help, if you’re them, but to remember what happened the last time they were here,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “It was a little while ago, but you’re never going to get over that. They’ve moved on as far as playing games, but I wouldn’t know what to expect if I was in their shoes.”

The Rangers couldn’t prevent a four-game sweep Sunday to the Twins, who scored three in the eighth inning on a Jorge Polanco triple en route to a 6-3 win.

Jeff Mathis drove in two runs and Shin-Soo Choo hit a game-tying homer in the seventh, but Emmanuel Clase couldn’t hold the Twins down moments later.

The Angels took 2 of 3 games from the Rangers in July, including a win the day after Skaggs passed. The Rangers wanted to be respectful of what the Angels were going through, so there was no walk-up music or music between innings.

Mike Minor, who started the July 2 game, said afterward that the atmosphere felt “weird.” The Rangers weren’t sure how they were supposed to act, a feeling that carried over to the next two games.

The Rangers won only two of their final six games of the first half, and the month only got worse after the All-Star break.

“We didn’t want to insult them,” Minor said. “It was tough to celebrate. It threw that whole week off.”

Players from both teams had arrived at Globe Life Park on July 1, but the Rangers held an impromptu team meeting around 3:30 p.m. to inform them that Southlake police found Skaggs unresponsive at 2:18 p.m.

The game was postponed, the Angels immediately boarded a bus back to the hotel, and Rangers players left for their homes unsure if they would play the next day.

The Angels wanted to play, and they beat the Rangers the next two days before a July 4 loss. Angels personnel addressed the media for the July 2 game, and every player poured into the media room speak about Skaggs in an emotional postgame news conference.

“We didn’t know how to feel, and I didn’t know how to feel,” Woodward said. “I didn’t want to downplay it. I didn’t want to be the guy to say, ‘I know this happened to them, but we’ve got a game to play.’ I felt like it was something bigger than all of us, so I tried to best handle it as best humanely possible I could. If we lose a game because of it, we lose a game because of it.”

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on Skaggs on July 2, but the final results won’t be known until October.

The Angels threw a combined no-hitter July 12 in their first home game after Skaggs death, in which they all wore his No. 45 jersey. A private funeral was held for Skaggs on July 22.

Among those in attendance was Rangers outfielder Scott Heineman, who had the day off from Triple A Nashville. He is part of a group of MLB players who worked out in the off-season with Skaggs, who was a rival of Heineman’s in little league and high school in Southern California.

“The guys who spoke, his teammates and trainer and a few of his friends, did a tremendous job to share his memory,” said Heineman, who made his MLB debut Aug. 2. “A lot of guys that spoke said that he was their best friend, and I look at him as a best friend. He was definitely a guy you thought of as a best friend. He always had a smile on his fast. Just a guy you always wanted to be around.

“When I got called up, I said a little prayer when I ran out to center field. I just try to do everything I can to share with people everything he shared with me so that he lives on.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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