Angels using the long ball to fuel offense
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Look who’s leading the major leagues in home runs.
The Angels might not be a team built exclusively on power, but two weeks into the season, they’re flexing their muscles in a very big way.
Sunday afternoon, they smacked five home runs and 11 extra-base hits to crush the New York Mets 14-2 at Angel Stadium and win the three-game series. It gave them six wins in their past nine games after starting with a discouraging 0-3 record.
"We came out swinging, and we never looked back," center fielder Mike Trout said.
Teams that rely solely on home runs are almost always doomed to fail, but the Angels are using their collective power to help carry them. They’ve scored nine or more runs three times, and with a lineup that includes Trout, Albert Pujols and currently disabled Josh Hamilton, they have the big hitters who can produce when their pitching doesn’t.
Their 20 home runs currently lead the majors, and Trout’s team-leading four are tied for second in the American League. Last season, it took Trout 121 at-bats to hit four homers; this season, he did it in 47.
Trout, Pujols and Raul Ibanez hit consecutive homers off Mets starter Bartolo Colon in the first inning, and Hank Conger and Ian Stewart added shots later. Since 2013, Trout has hit 16 first-inning home runs, most in the majors.
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) April 13, 2014
Ibanez’ home run was his second in two games.
"We have an element of power on our team for sure, and it’s nice to see it emerge," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Maybe we don’t have as much team speed as a group, but we have guys who can really run the bases and move around when we need it. I think there’s a nice blend."
The Angels had a 4-1 lead after one inning, a 7-1 lead after four and an 11-2 lead after six, giving starter C.J. Wilson a nice cushion after the Angels and Mets played extra-inning games the previous two games.
Wilson pitched seven innings, and Kevin Jepsen and Yoslan Herrera, called up from Triple-A Salt Lake earlier in the day, each worked one, giving the rest of the bullpen a day off.
Wilson had all the support he needed, especially from Trout, who was 3 for 4, pushing his batting average to .320, before he came out after six innings.
After a sharp spring, Trout is still hot, making contact and driving the ball to all fields.
"Today I was just trying to square the ball up," he said. "I wasn’t trying to hit a home run; it just happened. I think that’s when I’m at my best, when I’m trying to hit balls up the middle and go from there."
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) April 14, 2014
Conger said that’s the approach everyone is taking.
"The whole middle order is stacked," he said. "But I think everybody’s approach is to drive the ball. No one is going up there thinking, ‘I’m going to try and yank one out today.’ We’re just trying to see some good pitches and drive the ball."
When players do that, good things tend to happen. As Pujols said later, no one is really concerned with hitting home runs. They’re just coming in bunches now.
"We have a great team that can do a lot of things, but we’re not looking to win the home run title in the American League," he said. "Our goal is to try to do our job and win."