ANAHEIM, Calif. – He’s been through these moments so many times already that it just seems like routine stuff to Mike Trout. But it’s not.
He hits home runs, steals bases, makes jaw-dropping catches – and then smiles and shrugs his shoulders when he tries to describe them.
His answers to questions are pretty much always the same: He’s just trying to drive the ball up the middle and keep his swing short, he says. He wants to help the club win and have fun. In truth, he’s doing all of that in his rookie season with the Angels.
But now that the team is driving toward the finish and hoping to stay relevant in the American League West, this is business. And every big hit helps.
Trout was standing in the on-deck circle Friday night when teammate Peter Bourjos scurried home from third base on a bases-loaded wild pitch to beat the Seattle Mariners 6-5, but his contributions were no less important than the final play.
He drove in five runs on a three-run homer in the third inning and added two more in the fifth when his sacrifice fly into the right-field corner scored two – yes, two – runs off Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez.
“It was real big to get a W,” Trout said afterward. “This is a big home stand for us.”
They’re all big now. The Angels trudged home after a 4-6 road trip that dropped them seven games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Friday at Angel Stadium, they fell behind 5-0 in the third inning to the Mariners and King Felix, who had been at his dominating best of late, going 6-0 since June 23.
In fact, Hernandez had surrendered just one home run in his previous 11 starts until Trout took him deep over the fence in left-center field, starting the comeback.
But here’s the funny thing about Trout: He insists he doesn’t change his approach or his swing, even though his team is trailing and need a big hit.
“No, I’m just trying to hit the ball up the middle,” he said. “I stayed short and it just went out of the park. … I’m comfortable right now. I got a good pitch to hit, a 3-2 changeup, and it was right there in my wheelhouse.”
He almost took Hernandez deep again with the bases loaded in the fifth, driving a ball to the opposite field before Mariners right fielder Eric Thames made a running catch near the foul pole. Howie Kendrick, who was on third base, tagged and scored, and Erick Aybar, who was on second, tagged and never stopped running as the relay throw went to second base.
The two-run sac fly tied the game and marked the second time in his career that Trout has knocked in five in a game.
“Mike understands what he can do in the batter’s box,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I don’t think he’s trying to do too much. He’s certainly not intimidated by failure. There’s times you’re going to strike out, and he knows that. But he keeps his head squared on right and goes out there and is ready for an opportunity to help the club.”
Trout salvaged the game and prevented starter Ervin Santana from suffering the loss despite more struggles. The Angels right-hander gave up two mammoth third-inning homers, one each to Dustin Ackley and John Jaso that put Seattle in front 5-0. But he pitched into the seventh inning and gave up just one hit after Jaso’s blast.
“There were some things you could see Ervin took a step forward with, and some things where he regressed,” Scioscia said. “He’s going to compete, and 5-0 is tough. But he made pitches, kept us in the game, got into the seventh and gave us a chance to get our bats going.”
Specifically, it was Trout’s bat that got going. And in the ninth, against reliever Josh Kinney, the Angels got a leadoff double from Kendrys Morales and intentional walks to Alberto Callaspo and Aybar to load the bases.
With Maicer Izturis batting, Kinney threw a fastball wide of the plate, allowing pinch-runner Peter Bourjos to score the winning run – the Angels’ second walk-off win of the season.
“It’s a good team win,” Trout said. “We’ve been on the wrong side lately, so to be on the right side tonight was awesome.”