ANAHEIM -- The boo birds were out in full force at Angel Stadium on Monday night with the rival Astros in town, playing in front of fans at the Big A for the first time since news broke of their 2017 sign-stealing scandal. The Angels also didn’t give the crowd much to cheer about early, unable to get much offense going against right-hander Luis Garcia through the first three innings.
But Mike Trout gave the Angels both their first run and their first hit of what ended up being a dramatic 7-6 win with a towering solo shot to left field off Garcia to lead off the fourth inning. It was the first homer of the year for Trout, the winner of the American League MVP Award in 2014, ‘16 and ‘19. It was also career homer No. 303 for Trout, who is in his 11th season with the Angels and is an eight-time All-Star.
Trout worked a 2-2 count against Garcia before unloading on an 82 mph changeup. The homer left the bat at 108.9 mph and went a projected 417 feet down the left-field line, per Statcast, and woke up the offense.
“We struggled early but we kept coming back, and Mikey’s home run kind of shifted the momentum a little bit,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “But you could credit just about everybody up and down the lineup with quality at-bats.”
It was late in the game, however, when the Angels did their most damage, just like they did against the White Sox in all four games of their opening series, as they’ve now scored in the eighth or ninth inning in all five games they’ve played this season with a combined 14 runs over those innings. The Halos rallied for four runs in the eighth inning Monday, as Trout’s early homer seemed to get the offense going as the game went along.
Trout went 2-for-3 with two walks, one intentional -- and his one out came on a called strikeout on a pitch outside the zone -- and helped spark the offense. But the Angels proved their whole lineup can be dangerous with yet another late comeback.
“It’s going to take all of us, and tonight, you saw that,” Trout said. “We came back and had a lot of big hits in the late innings. It’s about putting pressure on the defense.”
This time, it was veterans Albert Pujols and José Iglesias who sparked the rally, while Shohei Ohtani came in to pinch-hit but was promptly hit by a pitch from reliever Joe Smith. Ohtani stared down Smith, showing the animosity between the two clubs on a night in which both an inflatable and a real trash can were thrown onto the field by fans.
“I think there was a venting process going on,” Maddon said. “I think it’s entertaining. I don’t think the Astros were impacted by it and it probably fuels them a little bit. But fans do what they want to do and the trash cans were kinda unique. Used to be beachballs, now it’s trash cans.”
Dexter Fowler shook off a slow offensive start with an RBI single to make it a one-run game before David Fletcher tied it with an RBI groundout. The Angels were then helped by a defensive miscue from Yuli Gurriel, who uncorked a wild throw home on a grounder from Jared Walsh to give Los Angeles the lead. Trout was intentionally walked, and Anthony Rendon provided an insurance run with a sacrifice fly.
“It matters that we’ve done it often,” Maddon said of the comeback wins. “It creates believability. And we’ve done it against good pitching, against the better parts of opposing bullpens, because they’ve been ahead. So there’s a confidence factor there.”
Trout, 29, has been a big part of the club’s early success, reaching base safely in 14 of his 23 plate appearances and batting .400/.609/.667. He worked hard in the offseason to fix his swing mechanics, as he felt they were off in 2020 and he was pulling off while swinging too often.
But the scary part for opposing teams is that, despite all of his success so far, Trout feels he still has more to unlock this season.
“It’s getting close,” Trout said of his swing. “I felt really good at the plate tonight. It’s pitch by pitch and getting into a good position to hit and not trying to do too much. It’s definitely feeling better up there.”