ANAHEIM -- On a night that saw Kole Calhoun throw out a runner at home in the first inning, the right fielder also went deep twice and reached the 30-homer plateau for the first time in his career in an 11-4 loss in the series opener against the Rays on Friday at Angel Stadium.
It was a strong showing from Calhoun with the Angels missing Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton to injury. Calhoun scuffled early in the month, going 2-for-27 through his first eight games, but he homered once on Wednesday and twice on Friday to reach 31 blasts. He's the first Angels right fielder with 30 jacks since Vladimir Guerrero in 2006 -- Tim Salmon is the only other Halos right fielder to reach 30 big flies in a season. Calhoun is also the 20th player in franchise history to reach the mark.
“He’s been outstanding for us,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “With the home runs, I know he wanted to get to 30, on a personal level. But he brings a lot more to the clubhouse and to right field, in addition to the power.”
It was also the third time this season that Calhoun homered and collected an outfield assist in the same game, as he accomplished the feat against the Blue Jays on June 18 and against the Dodgers on July 23.
His strong arm was on full display in the first, when lefty Andrew Heaney gave up three straight singles with two outs -- the third to right field from Jesus Aguilar. The speedy Austin Meadows tried to score from second, but Calhoun made a perfect throw home to catcher Kevan Smith, who tagged out the Rays' right fielder to end the inning. Calhoun’s throw was 93.9 mph and went 226 feet, per Statcast. It was his team-leading seventh outfield assist of the year, which is the second most among American League right fielders.
After striking out looking in his first at-bat, Calhoun was more aggressive in the third after David Fletcher singled with two outs off right-hander Charlie Morton. Calhoun crushed a 3-1 fastball from Morton to right, bringing the Angels within one run. Calhoun's homer left the bat at 103.9 mph and went a projected 408 feet, per Statcast.
"It was nice," Calhoun said. "The homer brought us within one early in the game, too. It felt good in the moment. It's something I'd been chasing the last couple weeks and really my whole career, honestly. So to get there was awesome."
His second long ball came in the eighth inning off reliever Andrew Kittredge on an 0-1 slider. It had an exit velocity of 105.3 mph and went a projected 422 feet, according to Statcast. It gave Calhoun his fifth career multihomer game and his first this season.
He credited hitting coaches Jeremy Reed, Shawn Wooten and Paul Sorrento for helping him with his swing this season in an effort to unlock more power.
"It's been a lot of work," Calhoun said. "From [Reed], from Wooten, from Paulie. It's been countless hours in the cage trying to get things going. It's kind of a sigh of relief, honestly. It feels good."
It’s been an interesting year for Calhoun, and the Angels will have a tough decision to make early this offseason as they hold a $14 million option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout. Calhoun, 31, is still productive despite a low batting average. The Angels, however, are in desperate need of starting pitching and could decide to spend that money on arms instead.
In the meantime, Calhoun will look to finish the season strong, as he’s one of only a few regulars this season who has managed to stay healthy, joining David Fletcher and Albert Pujols. And now the club will be without Ohtani and Upton for the rest of the year, while Trout’s availability will be determined on a day-to-day basis.
"Definitely going to be tough," Calhoun said. "You look at our schedule, and it's not going to be easy. I'm going to go out there and play and play hard. Try to go out and compete. Those are some big guys who are a huge part of this team that we are without. It's going to take some guys stepping up."