Trout goes deep; youngest to 100 HRs, 100 SBs
HOUSTON -- Mike Trout continues to amaze. And it isn't even about what he did on Friday, a two-homer night that saw him carry the Angels to a 6-3 win and become the youngest player ever to record 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases.
It's that he keeps evolving.
Both of Trout's homers in the series opener against the Astros -- a two-run shot off Roberto Hernandez in the sixth, a three-run shot off Chad Qualls in the eighth -- came with two strikes. The Angels' superstar center fielder is now 8-for-20 on two-strike counts this year, an encouraging sign for a player who strives to cut down his strikeout total in 2015.
It's all about his mindset.
"When I get aggressive early in the count," Trout said, "it gets me ready for later pitches in the at-bat, as opposed to just letting one go by."
Trout entered Friday with 104 career steals and hit his 100th home run at 23 years and 253 days old, surpassing Alex Rodriguez -- 23 years and 309 days old in 1999 -- as the youngest player to reach the 100/100 milestone. The reigning American League Most Valuable Player is batting .444, has hit safely in each of the first 10 games -- the first Angels player to do that in 17 years -- and has struck out just seven times so far.
That's a 113-strikeout pace, for a player who struck out an AL-leading 184 times last year -- the highest total ever for an MVP.
Trout batted only .227 on two-strike counts from 2012-14, a significant number for the Major League leader in plate appearances with two-strike counts during that stretch. He always thought that if he could be more aggressive early in counts, he could be more successful when he gets to two strikes.
Finally, in Spring Training, Trout was able to put that mindset into play.
"I got comfortable with it," Trout said. "It's a mental thing, for sure. You're in the outfield and you say you're going to go up there and drive that first pitch if you get it. But once you go up there, you're thinking you don't want to do too much. Once I start thinking up there, I just take. Spring Training definitely helped me."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn't notice anything different about Trout's approach with two strikes.
"Mike has always had a two-strike approach," Scioscia said. "You see him choke up a bit, let the ball get a little deeper."
Scioscia is more impressed with his belief that Trout hasn't changed.
"It's not like Mike is going to jump higher, or run faster, or hit the ball further," Scioscia said. "He just keeps on doing it. It's spectacular what he does, but he does it consistently. It's pretty good."
Trout's 100th home run came with the score tied at 1, after fouling off a 3-1 sinker low and away and lofting another Hernandez sinker -- on the lower edge of the strike zone, just where Trout likes them -- over Minute Maid Park's left-field fence.
His 101st came with the score tied at 3, after fouling off an 0-2 Qualls slider near the dirt and then lining a low-and-in sinker way out to right-center.
"The guy is unbelievable," Angels starter Jered Weaver said. "Nothing he does surprises me anymore. He's doing things that nobody has ever done before. It's awesome to see. It's fun to watch. I always tell everybody that what he does on the field is what it is, but what impresses me even more is how he goes about it off the field. He stays humble. He's a little kid playing a grown man's game."