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Angels welcome Upton back with homer spree

@RhettBollinger
June 17, 2019

TORONTO -- The Angels got a key piece back in their lineup on Monday with the return of Justin Upton, and they made the most of it with four homers, including a solo shot from Upton on the first pitch he saw on the season, in a 10-5 win over

TORONTO -- The Angels got a key piece back in their lineup on Monday with the return of Justin Upton, and they made the most of it with four homers, including a solo shot from Upton on the first pitch he saw on the season, in a 10-5 win over the Blue Jays in the series opener at Rogers Centre.

The club’s ideal lineup is almost a reality for the first time this year, as shortstop Andrelton Simmons could return this week from a left ankle sprain he suffered on May 21, but it was Upton who came back in a big way on Monday. Upton, in his return from left turf toe, went 2-for-4 and sparked a seven-run second inning with a solo shot off veteran Edwin Jackson on a first-pitch fastball over the middle of the plate. It made him the first Angels player to homer on his first pitch of a season since Jeff Mathis in 2010.

Box score

"It was nice,” Upton said. “I can't lie about that. I didn't expect a homer in my first at-bat. But I was pretty confident. I prepared myself. I just happened to get a good result."

The Angels kept piling on Jackson from there, as Kole Calhoun followed with a solo homer to right to give the Halos back-to-back blasts. Jackson loaded the bases with two outs and Mike Trout made him pay by scorching a two-run double to left. Shohei Ohtani capped the scoring that inning with a three-run shot to left for his ninth homer of the year.

Ohtani credited Upton for lengthening the lineup and believes hitting in front of Upton will allow him to see better pitches going forward.

“I feel a lot of protection with him hitting behind me,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “As long as I can get on base, he has the power, so he can drive me in a lot of times.”

Upton added a two-out single to knock Jackson from the game, giving him two hits in his first inning at the plate. He became the first player with at least five total bases in his first inning at the plate in a season since Jose Valentin did it in 1996. Valentin also homered and singled in the same inning while with the Brewers on Opening Day that year.

“You see the impact,” Trout said. “It didn’t take him long. One pitch, homer. He had two hits in one inning. That’s tough to do. Just to have that bat back, to miss him for 72 games, it’s huge to get him back.”

Trout also made history with a solo shot in the sixth off reliever Nick Kingham, which extended his streak to eight straight seasons with at least 20 homers. He became the seventh Major Leaguer in history to have at least eight seasons with at least 20 homers before their age-28 campaign, joining Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez and Giancarlo Stanton. Trout and Tim Salmon are the only Angels players to record eight seasons of 20-plus homers.

"A lot of guys contributed offensively," Angels manager Brad Ausmsus said. "I think what's difficult for pitchers and catchers is you're always looking for breaks in the lineup, where is there an easier out, but if you keep running guys up to hit that are hitters who pitchers can't lose their concentration on even for one pitch, it can wear them down."

Trout’s solo shot was crushed, leaving the bat at 110 mph and traveling a projected 456 feet to center, per Statcast. It was the third-longest homer by an Angels player this year behind two of Trout's own blasts of 473 feet and 458 feet. Trout went 4-for-5 and fell a triple short of the cycle, as he singled to right in his final at-bat in the eighth.

“It was definitely on my mind,” Trout said with a smile about the cycle chance. “Kole kept reminding me. Obviously, I needed something to go down the right-field line. I hit one to right field but it wasn’t a triple.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.