It’s clear the All-Star break did nothing to slow down any momentum Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout built.
The Boston Red Sox are in last place and eager to see if the return of former league MVP Dustin Pedroia can kick-start a second-half push.
Trout and the Angels take the field as a first-place team for the first time in three months when they host Pedroia and the Red Sox in Friday night’s four-game series opener.
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Trout became the first player in 38 years to homer leading off an All-Star Game on Tuesday and became the first to win back-to-back MVP honors in that contest as he helped the AL to a 6-3 victory.
"It’s just an incredible honor to be a part of the All-Star Game and win the MVP twice," he said. "It’s something special for sure."
The home-field advantage earned by the AL could come in handy for Los Angeles, which has won 11 of 14 to take over sole possession of first place in the West for the first time since April 17.
”We’re playing well but we have a long way to go and we want to focus on how we’re playing the game,” manager Mike Scioscia said.
Trout is batting .360 with seven homers and 13 RBIs in the last 14 contests, going 12 for 27 with five home runs and 11 RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
Boston (42-47) will welcome back Pedroia from a right hamstring strain that has kept him out since June 24. The 2008 AL MVP is posting team highs of a .306 average and a .819 OPS.
The Red Sox went 10-6 in Pedroia’s absence, though they dropped two of three last weekend to the New York Yankees to fall 6 1/2 games behind their first-place rivals.
Xander Bogaerts is batting .395 with 10 RBIs in a 10-game hitting streak while All-Star Brock Holt can match a career high by extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
"I think we played really good baseball towards the end of this half," Bogaerts said. "If we just continue to play baseball like that, good offense, good defense, good pitching, timely hits, I think we’ll be in a good position."
The Angels (48-40) are 14-7 against left-handed starters to tie Tampa Bay for the AL’s best record, but one of the defeats came May 24 to Friday starter Wade Miley (8-8, 4.80 ERA). Miley gave up one run over eight innings in a 6-1 home win in his only career start against Los Angeles.
Trout had a double in three at-bats against him. He is hitting .338 against left-handers with a .701 slugging percentage that is baseball’s second-best mark.
Miley has been mostly mediocre. He was tagged for six runs over 5 1-3 innings as he suffered Sunday’s 8-6 loss to New York.
The Angels will also start a southpaw in C.J. Wilson (7-7, 3.83), who allowed four runs over six innings in an 8-3 defeat to the Red Sox on May 23 to fall to 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 11 starts against them.
Wilson was charged with three runs in 6 2-3 innings in Saturday’s 5-0 defeat at Seattle.
Pedroia is 11 for 27 against Wilson. David Ortiz is 3 for 20 in this matchup and batting .128 against lefties for baseball’s worst average.
Boston has dropped six of nine in Anaheim after winning seven straight there.