ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays open the second half of the season Friday at Angel Stadium, but it very well could have the same atmosphere as Opening Day.
That’s because the Angels are expected to have Mike Trout back in the lineup after he missed six weeks while he recovered from a torn ligament in his left thumb. Trout suffered the injury May 28 when sliding head-first into second base.
Though they certainly missed Trout, the Angels’ record doesn’t show it. They were 26-27 when Trout got hurt, and were 19-20 following the injury and subsequent surgery that resulted in his first career trip to the disabled list.
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Trout was putting up numbers that would make him one of the favorites in the MVP race — .337 average, 16 home runs, 36 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .461 on-base percentage, and a .742 slugging percentage.
But he showed during a minor league rehab assignment that he might need time to find his rhythm at the plate. In four games at the Class-A level, Trout went 2 for 9 with four walks, one double, one triple and four strikeouts.
“It’s tough watching,” Trout told the Orange County Register. “Just cheering them in the dugout, you want to be out there so bad. When they’re on the road and you’re watching on TV, you want to be out there so badly.”
Cameron Maybin got most of the starts in Trout’s place in center field, and Albert Pujols held down the No. 3 spot in the batting order for Trout.
“We hung in there,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the Register. “We missed him, no doubt about it. Mike is the type of talent that makes everybody around him better. Hopefully there will be a little more offense, a little more pressure we can generate with a guy like Mike in the lineup.”
Trout and his teammates will face Rays starter Jacob Faria for the first time. Faria was called up June 7 to make his major league debut and won his first three starts. In six starts overall, he’s 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA, and all six have been quality starts (at least six innings, three earned runs or fewer).
Even more impressive was that in his last start July 6, Faria outpitched Boston’s Chris Sale, the American League’s All-Star Game starter, in a 4-1 victory.
“They make you work and force you into the strike zone,” Faria told mlb.com about facing the Red Sox. “I wasn’t in the strike zone very much early on in the game, so it was kind of a struggle there. Just attacking with whatever was working.”
Ricky Nolasco will start for the Angels, following an up-and-down first half. He allowed a major league-leading 25 home runs while going 4-10 with a 5.06 ERA. But he had his good moments too, such as his three-hit shutout of the Mariners on July 1.
Nolasco allowed five runs, seven hits and two walks while striking out six in six innings of a 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay on May 24 to fall to 3-7 with a 6.67 ERA in 10 career starts versus the Rays.