Trout, surging Angels set to face Harper-less Nationals

WASHINGTON — There will be no showdown between young stars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper when the Los Angeles Angels begin an abbreviated two-game interleague series against the host Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.

Both All-Stars have been on the disabled list this year, but Los Angeles’ Trout (.341, 23 homers) returned July 14 after a thumb injury.

Harper (.326, 29 homers) was put on the 10-day disabled list Sunday after he hyperextended his left knee while trying to beat out a ground ball on a wet field late Saturday night against the San Francisco Giants.

Harper had an MRI exam on Sunday and saw a doctor who tested his agility.

“I just said to the doctor: ‘I’m just going to jump back and forth on both sides, and if I collapse on the ground, then so be it,'” Harper said. “So I jumped back and forth, and did some figure skater stuff and tried to put as much force on it as I could to see if I hit the ground. It was definitely sore. But I felt fine, didn’t feel like anything that I never felt before. So that was definitely good.”

The depth of Washington’s outfield has helped overcome injuries to Adam Eaton, Jayson Werth and now Harper. The Nationals have used 12 outfielders this year and that includes rookie Andrew Stevenson, who started in center and right in a day-night doubleheader Sunday and had three hits.

“It is a testament to the leadership of (general manager) Mike Rizzo. Everyone had a hand in it,” Mark Scialabba, the director of player development for the Nationals, told The Sports Xchange on Monday. “We have enough depth when these guys come to the major leagues. Stevenson is advanced defensively. He plays the corners exceptionally well.”

It will be a battle of lefties on Tuesday as Tyler Skaggs (1-2, 3.63 ERA) of the Angels (61-58) makes his second career start against the first-place Nationals (70-46). Washington will counter with Gio Gonzalez (10-5, 2.59), whose ERA last year was 4.57.

Trout is just 1-for-13 (.077) in his career against Gonzalez while Albert Pujols is 3-for-5 with a homer. Pujols hit his 500th career homer at Nationals Park in 2014 against Taylor Jordan, who is no longer in the Washington system.

Skaggs went 6 1/3 innings on Thursday against the Seattle Mariners and gave up two runs in seven innings. He is 1-0 against Washington, having beat the Nationals in 2014 in his only appearance.

Gonzalez is 7-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 12 career starts against the Angels. He got the loss against them earlier last month when he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings.

The Nationals have enough starting pitching and outfield depth to cruise to a division title without Harper, who hit his 150th career homer last Tuesday. Harper hopes he can return in time for the playoff drive.

The Angels have won six in a row and are very much in the race for a wild-card spot in the American League. Trout got his 1,000th hit the same day Harper hit homer No. 150.

Angels reliever Keynan Middleton got two wins and a save over the weekend against the Mariners.

“Keynan answered the bell this week,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters Sunday.

Middleton began this year as the No. 9 prospect in the Angels system, according to Baseball America.

“He’s given us a shot in the arm,” Angels infielder C. J. Cron said of Middleton. “He’s kind of like that stopper for us. He’s done a good job and continues to impress.”

Former Nationals now with the Angels include outfielder Ben Revere (.252) and reliever Yusmeiro Petit (3-0, 2.36 ERA).

Former Washington and Angels infielder Danny Espinosa was let go by Los Angeles last month and signed with the Mariners. Former Washington minor league prospect Alex Meyer (4-5, 3.74) is on the disabled list with the Angels and last pitched in the majors on July 19 against the Nationals.

Former Washington infielder Yunel Escobar (.274), now with the Angels, went on the disabled list last Tuesday with a Grade 1 right oblique strain.