Trout’s grand slam powers Angels past Rangers, 5-1

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Any pitcher who wants a prayer of retiring Mike Trout should throw high fastballs, at least according to the old conventional wisdom on the star slugger.

That’s exactly what Drew Smyly threw, and that’s exactly what Trout hit 458 feet for the grandest homer yet in his latest power binge.

Trout hit a grand slam for his fourth homer in three days, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Texas Rangers 5-1 on Saturday for their first back-to-back victories of the season.

Trout’s fourth-inning drive off Smyly (0-1) cleared the bullpens beyond the left field fence at Angel Stadium. He absolutely clobbered a fastball at the top of the strike zone, taking an eraser to yet another item on the diminishing list of effective strategies to deal with the two-time AL MVP.

“Obviously it’s just adjustments,” Trout said of his increasing acumen at hitting high pitches after occasionally struggling with them earlier in his career. “I couldn’t tell you one thing that I’m doing to hit those pitches. Just getting a good pitch to hit and trying to put a barrel to it, not trying to do too much. If you try to do too much with a pitch up (high), you’re not going to hit it. You’re going to pop up. So especially with guys on base, you’re just looking for something around the zone.”

After homering in the Halos’ home opener Thursday and adding two more Friday, Trout connected for his first grand slam since 2015 and No. 5 for his career. He has homered in three straight games for the seventh consecutive time in his career; he homered in four straight during May 2017.

“(Smyly) actually represents a pretty good matchup for Trout because of the high fastballs, (but) there’s really no great matchup against Trout, especially when there’s nowhere to put him,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “I’m going to have nightmares about that guy.”

Trout is off to a dynamite start after cementing his future in Anaheim with a 12-year, $426.5 million contract before the season. He has reached base in all nine games this season, including four times Saturday while boosting his on-base percentage to .553 and his OPS to a whopping 1.476.

Albert Pujols added his 634th career homer in the seventh for Los Angeles. Pujols’ first homer of his 19th big league season was his 3,089th career hit, tying Ichiro Suzuki for 22nd place in major league history.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa had an RBI single in the fifth for the Rangers, who couldn’t match the Angels’ big hits.

Tyler Skaggs (1-1) pitched 6 1/3 innings of five-hit ball in a strong outing for the Angels, earning his first victory since July 25. The left-hander won his third consecutive start against Texas, giving up just two earned runs in 17 1/3 innings.

“Last year didn’t end the way I wanted, but I know the caliber of pitcher I am,” Skaggs said. “Hopefully this is the first of many (wins) this year.”

Smyly stranded six Angels runners in the first three innings, but Trout’s slam chased him. Smyly gave up six hits and three walks in his second start for his new team after two years of recovery following Tommy John surgery.

ALBERT AGAIN

Pujols connected on the first pitch of the seventh inning by Adrian Sampson. The three-time NL MVP got his 1,984th career RBI, eight behind Babe Ruth for fifth place in baseball history.

LEADING OFF

David Fletcher had three hits, reached base four times and stole a base in his first game of the season as Los Angeles’ leadoff hitter. The spot has been troublesome in recent years for the Angels, but Fletcher is likely to get more chances to claim the role.

“It’s tough not to like the things Fletch does,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: 1B Ronald Guzman left with tightness in his right hamstring after running out his double to the right field wall in the third inning. He will have an MRI exam before Texas decides whether to recall a player from the minors for Sunday’s game. “Hopefully it’s just tightness,” Woodward said. “But it didn’t look very good.”

Angels: Kole Calhoun ran into the right field wall while attempting to catch Guzman’s double, but he stayed in the game after a long consultation with LA’s training staff. Calhoun then left in the seventh after striking out three times.

UP NEXT

Late-spring acquisition Chris Stratton (0-1, 8.31 ERA) makes his Angel Stadium debut after getting raked by Seattle in his first appearance for the Halos. Shelby Miller (0-0, 4.91 ERA) will make his second start for the Rangers in the finale of the four-game series.