LOS ANGELES — At some point, the superlatives are going to sound trite. How many times can you say good things about Mike Trout without going over the top, without anointing him The Next Great Player in the game?
Every time he does something special, it becomes a challenge to describe his talent, to put into words his enormous baseball skills. He’s been compared to Mickey Mantle and Rickey Henderson, and as ridiculous as that sounds, it’s beginning to seem within his reach.
Trout did it again Monday night. He had a hand in all three runs the Angels scored in a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. He hit a home run, drove in the tying run with an opposite-field single on an 0-2 pitch, drew a walk in the ninth inning, then stole second and scored the go-ahead run on Albert Pujols’ broken-bat single.
That’s a mouthful, but for Trout it’s just another game in his big-league education.
“He doesn’t take anything for granted,” Pujols said. “He goes out and plays hard every day — dive for balls, stealing a base, getting his walk, bunting. Everything you could ask for in a perfect player, he has it.”
Trout isn’t perfect — yet. He overran a ball in center field after an errant pickoff attempt by pitcher Garrett Richards in the first inning, allowing a run to score. But he made up for it with everything else he did.
Trout, who doesn’t turn 21 until August, is a baseball savant. Everything he does comes naturally, whether it’s getting a jump on a pitcher and stealing base or shortening his swing with two-strikes.
In the sixth, he found himself in an 0-2 hole against Dodgers reliever Josh Lindblom with two outs and Erick Aybar on second base following a double. A base hit would tie the game; anything less than that would preserve the Dodgers’ lead.
“I just tried to shorten my swing and have that two-strike approach, just battle mode,” Trout said. “I stayed on it long enough to hit it to right field.”
In the decisive ninth, he worked reliever Kenley Jansen for a one-out walk, then promptly stole second. The Dodgers opted to pitch to Pujols with first base open and he converted with a single to left-center.
“I’m just getting better leads,” Trout said of the stolen base, his second of the game and 15th of the season, tying him for the American League lead. “Coming into the spring, my leads were pretty short. I’m looking for little stuff, like (a pitcher) moving a glove or the back leg. It’s coming more as I’m more comfortable out there.”
Every day, he finds a new comfort level. Perhaps more important, he’s got players like Pujols becoming more enthused.
“Right now, he’s playing the game the right way, he’s playing it hard,” Pujols said. “I’m really excited that my next 10 years I’m going to hopefully spend them with him and (Mark) Trumbo and Peter (Bourjos). Those guys are going to keep me young.”
Trout called the game huge, and it was. The Angels closed to within 2-1/2 games of first place in the AL West with their 10th consecutive road win, just one short of matching the franchise record.
And it was huge for him, too. Trout, who was named AL co-player of the week with teammate Torii Hunter, is hitting .373 since May 1, and the Angels are 27-15 since he was called up from the minors April 28.