With a towering two-run homer to dead center in the first inning off Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler on Saturday at Angel Stadium, Angels superstar Mike Trout is now tied for the Major League lead in homers with nine, joining the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. atop the leaderboard.
Trout also brought home the go-ahead run with an RBI groundout as part of a two-run fifth inning and swiped second base, giving him 35 career games with a homer and a stolen base. But it came in a 6-5 loss to the Dodgers in 10 innings in the second game of the Freeway Series. It dropped the Angels to 7-14, which is tied for the worst 21-game start in franchise history.
“We did so many things well, and again, we just got to keep pounding on that door until we start winning the game of inches as opposed to losing them,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “That's what's going on. I couldn't be more happy with the way we went after it tonight. They scored a run without getting a hit in that last inning and as part of the new method of baseball that everybody's clamoring for."
After Trout gave the Angels the lead in the fifth, Mookie Betts tied it with a solo homer in the seventh off Felix Peña. Reliever Keynan Middleton gave up the go-ahead run in the 10th after automatic runner Chris Taylor stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly from Max Muncy. Trout came to the plate with Luis Rengifo at second base and two outs in the ninth but struck out looking against closer Kenley Jansen to end the game, not swinging the bat on any of Jansen’s three strikes.
"Kenley just has that way, against the best player in the game, to bear down and make pitches,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Those three pitches -- two cutters and a little two-seamer -- were just next-level pitches. So I don't know what it is. Not many guys can say that about their at-bats against Mike Trout, but fortunately, Kenley can."
Trout, a three-time American League MVP and eight-time All-Star, is tied for the MLB home run lead despite missing four games to attend the birth of his son, Beckham, on July 30. Since returning from the paternity list on Aug. 4, Trout has hit eight homers and driven in 15 runs in 11 games. On the season, he has 19 RBIs in 17 games.
Trout’s homer in the first came on a hanging 2-2 curveball from Buehler and Trout absolutely crushed it. It left the bat at 110.4 mph and went a projected 433 feet, per Statcast, making it his hardest-hit ball this season.
"I made a couple mistakes, obviously the ball in the first inning to Trout," Buehler said. "I was trying not to put it in the zone, but I did, and he took advantage of it."
Trout has never led the league in homers in his 10-year career but was leading last season when he was shut down in September with a nerve issue in his right foot. Trout finished with a career-high 45 homers in 134 games in ’19.
Trout also helped the Angels take the lead in the fifth after Rengifo singled and David Fletcher executed a perfect hit-and-run play on a high 96-mph fastball from Buehler. Tommy La Stella tied the game with a single to center and Trout was robbed by Muncy at third on a hard-hit grounder. But it still plated the run to give the Angels the lead.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney departed with that one-run lead after allowing four runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, as he settled down after a shaky second inning that saw him walk two batters and allow two runs. He also gave up two runs on a single from Muncy in the third despite getting the first two batters of the inning out.
"I think the last three innings I started to kind of find a little bit of rhythm,” Heaney said. “Definitely did some things better tonight that I hadn't done in the last couple [outings]. But still, I want to win games. I don't want moral victories."
Heaney was also helped by a spectacular play at shortstop from Fletcher, who robbed Betts of a hit with an incredible grab to his right and throw all the way across his body to get the speedy Betts. It was challenged by the Dodgers but ultimately upheld.
"That one there, I don't know if I've seen that one,” Maddon said. “My comment in the dugout was normally a shortstop's got to jump on that play, plant his foot. You've seen Derek Jeter do it 1,000 times, and others. Even Andrelton [Simmons], I've never seen it, I don't think has done it like that. The accuracy on the throw and the carry. Everything about it, you have to say it's as good as you've ever seen."