Trout caps comeback with go-ahead homer
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Rookie sensation Mike Trout has given the Los Angeles Angels everything they could have asked from a 20-year-old phenom — and more.
Trout hit a go-ahead homer and scored from first base on a single as the Angels rallied from an early five-run deficit against Chad Billingsley to beat the Dodgers 8-5 Friday night in the opener of the season’s second Freeway Series.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve come to expect it, but I’m definitely not surprised by it, personally,” teammate Mark Trumbo said. “He’s the total package. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never played with anybody who’s anywhere near as advanced as he is at this age. He’s a big part of the reason why we’ve been playing a lot better.”
Dan Haren (5-7) allowed five runs, nine hits and three walks over five innings with five strikeouts. Ernesto Frieri, the fifth Angels pitcher, worked a hitless ninth for his eighth save in eight chances.
“I left some balls up and out over the plate, and there’s just no excuse for it,” Haren said. “I’ve done it a couple of times now, and I’ve got to get better than that. Obviously, I think everyone knows I can throw the ball better than I have. But it was nice for the team to pick me up, and hopefully I can pick them up next time.”
Bobby Abreu hit a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw in his return to Angel Stadium with the Dodgers. But it wasn’t enough for Billingsley (4-6), who gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings.
The right-hander is 1-5 with a 5.36 ERA in seven career starts against the Angels, who had hit only two homers off him in 42 1-3 career innings prior to Trout’s clout. This was the fourth time in the last five regular-season meetings between the Dodgers and Angels that the game turned on a tiebreaking home run.
The Dodgers totaled four runs over their previous four games, including a three-game sweep by Oakland. But Abreu gave Billingsley a great head start in the first inning with a towering drive far back into the elevated seats in right field after singles by Jerry Hairston Jr. and Andre Ethier.
The emergence of Trout, Trumbo (26) and Peter Bourjos (25) made the Angels’ outfield too crowded for the 38-year-old Abreu to play a regular role, despite Vernon Wells’ long-term thumb injury. He was released on April 30, and the Dodgers signed him as a free agent four days later. Since then, he is hitting .297 with 13 RBIs in 41 games. But his slow home run trot wasn’t aimed at the Angels.
“Not really. It’s nothing personal,” Abreu said. “To me it was just another team that we face and another team that we have to beat. I was just happy to hit a homer right there. It felt good that I did something to help the team and give us a few runs in the first inning.”
The Dodgers extended the margin to 5-0 in the second with RBI singles from Hairston and Juan Rivera. But Billingsley couldn’t hold it, and the Angels fought back with three runs in the bottom half on Alberto Callaspo’s RBI double, Howie Kendrick’s sacrifice fly and Erick Aybar’s RBI groundout.
“I think our recent success has given us more confidence to come back,” Trumbo said. “I mean, when you’re down early like that, it’s not the end of the world. There are still nine chances to come back and get the job done. It was fortunate that we were able to answer them quickly and get some of the momentum back on our side.”
Callaspo led off the fourth with a single and scored on Aybar’s triple. Bobby Wilson followed with a suicide squeeze that eventually scored Aybar, who slid past the plate while catcher A.J. Ellis missed the tag. Umpire Dale Scott remained an interested spectator until Aybar casually walked back and stepped on the dish, then gave the “safe” sign.
Trout, who entered second in the AL with a .338 average, drove Billingsley’s next pitch to left-center for his seventh homer and a 6-5 Angels lead.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Trout said. “I got a pitch I could hit and I put a good swing on it. We were all having big at-bats. Bobby coming up with that squeeze was big, and Aybar getting that triple. Dan had a rough first two innings, but after that he settled in and gave us a chance. So getting those runs for him was big.”
It could have been worse for Billingsley, but Ethier displayed his Gold Glove form in the fifth by robbing Kendrick of a two-run double with a leaping catch against the 18-foot wall for the third out. Torii Hunter drove in the Angels’ final two runs against Jamey Wright, with Trout winging it all the way from first behind Wilson after Hunter singled to right field on a 3-2 pitch with two outs.
“Trout is like my little brother. He’s my best friend, so I’m really excited that he did that for me — giving me that extra RBI — and I’m going to take him to McDonald’s,” Hunter said.
NOTES: Billingsley hasn’t gone longer than seven innings since his season debut, when he allowed three hits over 8 1-3 innings in a 6-0 win at San Diego. He has completed seven innings in only three of his 14 starts since then. … Haren walked more than two batters for only the second time in his last 39 starts — including May 14 against Oakland, when he issued four and hit his only batter of the season in a 5-0 loss. Last year, he finished with fewer walks (33) than starts (34). … Only two of Abreu’s last 28 home runs have come with more than one runner on base. The other was a tying, three-run shot off Clayton Kershaw in the Angels’ 6-3 win over the Dodgers on June 22, 2010, at Anaheim.