ANAHEIM — During the frustrating start to Matt Harvey’s season, there was a constant encouraging voice coming from the next locker.
“Remember, you’re the Dark Knight.”
When Harvey took the mound on Saturday night for the first time after seven weeks on the injured list, he brought with him those words that he’d heard so often from Tyler Skaggs.
After Harvey gave up one run in 5-2/3 innings in the Angels’ 9-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners, a game that also included Mike Trout’s eighth homer in the last seven games, Harvey classified his return to the mound as a success, one in part made possible by the player who used to be his clubhouse neighbor.
When Harvey was a dominant member of the New York Mets rotation, he was the Dark Knight, and Skaggs would not let him forget it.
“Although I’m not really throwing like the Dark Knight, like I used to, he kept telling me that,” Harvey said. “When I had some rough games and got down on myself, he was always there to pick me up. That was something I definitely took out there with me today. When I started getting in my own way, I said, ‘Remember who you are and just try to get the guy out and execute each part.’ He helped me through it…
“He was always there. He was next to me everyday. He told me just remember who you always are.”
While the Angels will never be able to replace Skaggs in their lives, the relentless season and the team’s slim playoff hopes nonetheless demand that they find a way to replace him in the starting rotation.
A day after the Angels began the game with an emotional pregame ceremony to honor Skaggs and ended it with their No. 45 jerseys on the mound following a combined no-hitter, Harvey stood on that same mound looking to begin salvaging his season.
“There’s obviously still work to be done, but to be able to go out and execute pitches and throw everything and just get back with these guys is what’s most important,” Harvey said. “It’s definitely good to be back.”
Harvey did not allow a run over his first five innings, with the Angels helping him out of two jams with double plays. He finally gave up a run in the sixth, when Mallex Smith led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Harvey’s velocity, which had been one of the issues during his struggles, was only mildly improved. His average fastball in his last start before his back injury was 91.9 mph, and on Saturday it was 92.3 mph.
Changes to his delivery, however, may have helped hide the ball, adding to the deception and making it tougher for the hitters.
Manager Brad Ausmus said the biggest improvement was in his pitch-usage.
“He mixed it very well,” Ausmus said. “He didn’t get in any patterns with his pitches. He used all his pitches to righties and lefties.”
By the time the Mariners got a run against Harvey, the Angels had a six-run lead thanks an an offense that picked up where it left off after Friday night’s 13-run explosion.
Kole Calhoun belted a second-inning homer just over the picture of Skaggs on the center field fence, putting the Angels up 2-0. It was the 20th homer of the season for Calhoun, and his career-high ninth against a left-handed pitcher.
“I keep moving him down in the lineup against lefties and he keeps hitting home runs,” Ausmus said. “He’s been outstanding. He’s had some big home runs too. From a power perspective, a slugging perspective, he’s had an outstanding season.”
An inning later, Trout blasted a two-run homer into the Angels bullpen, with Noé Ramírez snagging the baseball in his cap. It was Trout’s 30th homer of the year. Trout hit No. 30 in the Angels’ 93rd game. Trout broke his own club record, having previously hit his 30th homer in the Angels’ 98th game, in 2015.
Albert Pujols padded the lead to 9-2 with a three-run homer in the seventh, his 14th of the season.
The Angels collected 12 hits, including three from Luís Rengifo and two apiece from David Fletcher, Calhoun and Pujols.
“That was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced and been a part of,” Harvey said of Friday’s performance. “The guys came out hot and that was fun to watch, obviously, and then continued to do it tonight. It’s been a good start for us for the second half. We just want to keep it going and keep that energy going and do it for our buddy over here, try and finish the second half as strong as we can.”
Source : Google News