ANAHEIM -- The two-strike curveball Collin McHugh spun to begin the bottom of the fourth would've hit the dirt if left unimpeded. The Astros were certain of that. But Mike Trout decided he would swing, so he dropped his back shoulder and lifted the offering well beyond the fence in
ANAHEIM -- The two-strike curveball Collin McHugh spun to begin the bottom of the fourth would've hit the dirt if left unimpeded. The Astros were certain of that. But Mike Trout decided he would swing, so he dropped his back shoulder and lifted the offering well beyond the fence in left-center field, out for his 17th home run of this season and good for his first of three hits on this Monday night.
The Angels eventually lost again, dropped by a 4-2 score in which they wasted another gem by Matt Shoemaker and could not capitalize on Trout's everlasting brilliance. After it was over, Angels manager Mike Scioscia uttered the phrase he often recites: "Our team has to be more than Mike."
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Trout and other #ASGWorthy players
But right now the Angels are not.
They have dropped seven of their last eight, sit 13 games below .500 and find themselves 18 games out of first place in the American League West, but Trout's greatness ensues.
"We're battling," Trout said. "We come in every day with a positive mentality. Obviously the guys that are banged up are trying to get back with the team, and the guys that are playing are playing hard."
But Trout is the only one doing anything substantial.
His 4.7 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement score easily paces the Angels, more than double what has been produced by the second-place Kole Calhoun (1.9) and more than six times greater than that of anybody else on his team. He leads the Angels in homers, RBIs, stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and runs scored, and is the only one among them represented on the Esurance All-Star Ballot.
Trout has compiled a home run and two other hits in each of the last three nights. He has 13 hits over his last 22 at-bats, bumping his slash line to .319/.415/.572, but the Angels haven't been able to take advantage of his hot streak.
"You hope you can," Angels closer Huston Street said. "That's just the truth. Tonight, we didn't capitalize on some opportunities, and that's been the story of most of our losses."
Trout's fourth-inning home run, which put him on pace for 36 this season, was the lowest pitch to clear a fence since the one that Freddy Galvis golfed out on April 28, 2013.
Trout laughed when asked if he realized where it was.
"Yeah," he said, "that was kinda low."
It went out a projected 407 feet, with a launch angle of 27 degrees, according to Statcast™. Since his first full season in 2012, Trout has put 532 pitches below the strike zone in play and has produced hits 43.6 percent of the time.
"He's probably the best player on the planet, so that usually helps," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He always factors in, one way or another. It feels like the at-bat's always going to come down to him."
Trout would've had a triple in the sixth, when his blooper fell in front of a diving George Springer in shallow right field and rolled behind him. But the 24-year-old center fielder tripped while sprinting toward third base, then scampered back to second and playfully cupped the head of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, whom he teased before the game for falling similarly a couple of days earlier.
Said Trout: "There's kind of some karma involved there."
Trout later scored, coming home on C.J. Cron's single to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. But he didn't in the eighth, despite standing on second base with less than two outs. And he never batted in the ninth, an inning that saw the Angels load the bases with none out and come up empty.
In the moments leading up to Monday's game, Trout sat on the recliner in front of his locker and tossed a football with his mentor, Torii Hunter, playfully bragging about how much stronger his throwing arm has become and doing little to indicate any frustration with what is surrounding him.
He then played in his 139th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues, and he has no plans for a day off.
These days, the Angels can't really afford to give him one.
"I want to be out there competing," Trout said. "I try to do everything I can to help the team win. I want to be out there fighting."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.