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Angels throw no-hitter in first home game since Skaggs’ death

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels put on Tyler Skaggs’ No. 45 jerseys and stood solemnly on the field while his mother, Debbie, delivered a heartbreakingly perfect strike on the first pitch.

The Angels then proceeded to play their heavy hearts out in their first home game since their beloved pitcher’s death.

Two Angels pitchers combined to throw the 11th no-hitter in franchise history, and Mike Trout drove in six runs in a stunning 13-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.

On the day before what would have been Skaggs’ 28th birthday, these astonishing Angels played a practically perfect game with his memory in their minds.

“Tonight is about him,” injured Angels infielder Zack Cozart said before the game. “We’re going to do what we can to honor him and keep his legacy going.”

This tribute ended up exceeding all logic and expectation, however.

Still reeling from the loss of their left-handed starter early last week in Texas, the Angels somehow excelled in every aspect of the game while wearing replicas of Skaggs’ red jersey.

The Angels scored eight runs on seven hits in the first inning alone, with Trout delivering a two-run homer and a two-run double.

Taylor Cole opened with two perfect innings before Félix Peña came on for seven more, allowing only a fifth-inning walk in the performance of his life.

Before the game, Skaggs’ presence was strong in Anaheim.

“He’s still a part of the team, even though he’s not here,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said before the game.

His jersey hung in his untouched locker in the clubhouse, his pristine cleats and gloves ready for a ballgame. The big stereo system in the room’s center is silent because the affable left-hander who controlled the Angels’ musical choices is no longer here.

And on the far wall of the clubhouse, two photos of Skaggs now flank his competitive catchphrase printed in tall letters: “WE’RE NASTY.”

“He’s the life of the team, honestly,” said Cozart, Skaggs’ teammate for the past two seasons. “We’re family in here. We’re around each other all day, every day. You just hurt so much for Tyler’s family. … It’s so sudden and so tragic. Forty-five will always be in my mind. That’s how it’s always going to be for all of us.”

The baseball season’s relentless pace forces the Angels to heal while they play, and they went back to work after a somber All-Star break during which Skaggs was honored at the game in Cleveland.

“In some respects, sometimes keeping busy can help,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “I don’t really know if that’s the right way to go about it, because you do need to grieve. Everybody has those moments, personal to them. I’ve had a couple of those myself. But for a lot of us, seeing each other again is nice.”

During a poignant pregame ceremony, both teams lined the basepaths as Skaggs’ family took the mound led by Debbie Skaggs, the longtime softball coach at Santa Monica High School.

Debbie Skaggs threw a brisk strike to Andrew Heaney, Skaggs’ best friend and fellow Angels rotation member.

The Angels then battered Seattle starter Mike Leake in a surreal seven-run, eight-hit first inning highlighted by Trout, who has been relentless at the plate ever since Skaggs’ death.

Trout crushed a 454-foot, two-run homer to left-center on the first pitch he saw from Leake. The two-time AL MVP appeared to look toward Skaggs’ family in the stands as he crossed the plate after an unusually long home run trot.

Cole also opened flawlessly on the mound. The reliever pounded his chest and pointed at the sky when Kole Calhoun caught the final out of the second.

While the Angels eventually will settle into the rhythms of the season, Skaggs’ presence will be felt throughout the stadium, from his intact locker to the large likeness of the well-liked pitcher now displayed prominently on the center field wall.

A memorial created by fans in front of the Big A’s main entrance has grown to the size of a pitcher’s mound, with hats, signs and baseballs and other Angels memorabilia delivered to the stadium by heartbroken fans over the past 10 days. Most of the Angels saw the memorial in person for the first time when they returned from a difficult road trip and the ensuing All-Star break.

“I think guys will become emotional again, because it is still very fresh,” Ausmus said. “That’s fine. We’re human beings. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are engaged

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LOS ANGELES — Jennifer Lopez said yes to Alex Rodriguez’s proposal, and with the rock he presented, who could say no?

The couple posted an Instagram photo of their hands with a massive engagement ring on Lopez’s ring finger. The former Yankees shortstop captioned his photo with “she said yes” and a heart emoji.

The couple has been dating since early 2017 and later that year landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with their celebrity couple nickname, J-Rod.

In January, Rodriguez told The Associated Press that he and Lopez had similar backgrounds and her latest film “Second Act” reflected the ties that drew them together.

“It really resembles a lot of the arc that Jennifer and I lived in our life: Both born in New York, both come from immigrant parents, both have two children, both Latino Americano – her from Puerto Rico, me from Dominican Republic. We’ve been through our ups and downs, but here we are in our 40s and trying to live the best lives possible and, at the same time, give back and pay it forward,” Rodriguez said.

It will be Lopez’s fourth marriage and Rodriguez’s second. Each has two children from previous marriages.

Hawaii defeats South Korea 3-0 to win Little League title

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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It only took one pitch for Mana Lau Kong to deliver Hawaii its first Little League World Series title in a decade.

Against a South Korea team that hadn’t surrendered a home run in the tournament, Kong drove the first pitch his team saw over the center field fence. As he rounded the bases and headed home, his teammates poured out of the dugout in a pack led by pitcher Ka’olu Holt and formed a huddle around home plate.

“It was great,” Holt said, “because we all knew that pitcher was tough to hit.”

Holt took it from there, throwing a two-hitter to lead Hawaii to a 3-0 victory in the Little League World Series championship, the first shutout in a title game since 2002. It was Holt’s first-ever complete game.

The team from Honolulu allowed just three runs in the entire tournament, shut out four of its five opponents and struck out 53 batters in 34 innings.

“Someone asked me, what’s the strength of the team, and I honestly have to say, it’s that they play as a team,” Hawaii manager Gerald Oda said. “Ka’olu pitching, or Aukai (Kea) pitching, Mana hitting a home run, it’s everybody just doing the best that they can do. Once they bought in and once they accepted their roles, it makes my job a lot easier.”

In the bottom of the second inning, Hawaii had the bases loaded with no outs, but failed to score. So Oda took a more aggressive approach on the basepaths with two runners in scoring position in the third.

Pinch-runner Zachary Won scored Hawaii’s second run on a wild pitch from starter Kim Yeong-hyeon. As catcher Kim Gi-jeong chased the ball, Oda sent Taylin Oana all the way home from second to give Hawaii its third run.

In the stands, Hawaii’s fans, waving tea leaves for luck, started to mix their signature “Hon-o-lu-lu!” chants with “U-S-A!”

The victory marks the first time a Hawaiian team has won the Little League World Series since 2008. It is now one of seven U.S. states with at least three LLWS titles. All of Hawaii’s championships have come in the past 13 years.

Seoul, South Korea, has played in the three of the last six LLWS title games, but won only once – in 2014. It lost in 2016 to Maine-Endwell, New York.

“It was equally the same thing, from 2016 to 2018,” South Korea manager Su Ji-hee, who was also a member of the coaching staff of the 2016 team, said through a translator. “After the game, the kids were crying, they feel sorry for themselves.”

At the conclusion of a six-pitch final inning, Hawaii’s players tossed their gloves and hats as high as they could, and sprinted to the mound to form another celebratory huddle.

“It felt really great because barely any Hawaii teams get to be in this moment and feel what it feels like meeting other people from around the world, to playing baseball against them too,” Kong said.

After finally achieving what his team set out to accomplish at the beginning of the summer, Oda can’t wait to return home to his family.

As for the kids? They want to see their families, too, but they have other plans.

“I want to go to the beach,” Holt said.