Fastball hunter Trout makes Nationals pay

May 7th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- It's generally not the best strategy to walk the hitter ahead of Mike Trout.

But after on-base machine Taylor Ward drew his third walk of the game in the fifth inning, it brought Trout up with the bases full and one out. The Angels' superstar then ripped a 95 mph fastball from Nationals starter Joan Adon for a two-run double off the base of the wall in right-center field to help lead the Halos to a 3-0 win in the series opener on Friday at Angel Stadium. With the victory, the first-place Angels improved to 18-10 on the season.

“I’m always looking fastball,” Trout said with a smile. “The second pitch, the one I swung through, I was trying to do too much. I just tried to shorten my swing up and got a pitch to hit, and I barreled it.”

Trout, a three-time American League MVP and nine-time All-Star, is off to another incredible start this season, slashing .325/.449/.675 with six homers, eight doubles and 13 RBIs in 23 games. His 1.124 OPS leads the Majors and is even above his career mark of 1.004, which leads all current players.

He also helped spark a rally in the first inning. After Ward walked to open the frame, Trout followed with a well-struck single to center to put Adon in a jam. Following a wild pitch that advanced the runners, Shohei Ohtani brought in the game's first run with an RBI groundout.

But it was in the fifth that Trout did the most damage. Despite being down in the count 0-2, Trout smacked a misplaced fastball from Adon that was located over the heart of the plate. It was the hardest-hit ball by an Angels player on the night at 108 mph, per Statcast. His single in the first was No. 2 at 106.5 mph.

“Pretty good, right?”” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “The pitcher is proud of his fastball and I love that. He pitched well. He was just trying to throw one past Mikey, but he got it. Obviously, we needed that. We won via a shutout, but 3-0 is a lot different than 1-0. It was a big at-bat for him. He looked good today. We have a lot of guys who are close to breaking out, but Trouty looks good."

Trout credited Ward, one of the game’s best hitters early on, for setting the tone atop the lineup. Ward is slashing .362/.488/.710 in 20 games; his 1.198 OPS is ahead of Trout's, but he doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify for the lead after missing the first eight games with a left groin strain.

“I love being in the box with guys on base,” Trout said. “He’s been doing a great job. He’s sticking with his approach and getting the opportunity to play every day. It’s fun to watch.”

Trout was also quick to note how impressed he was by pitchers Jhonathan Diaz, Oliver Ortega, Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup and Raisel Iglesias, who combined to throw the Angels' fifth shutout of the season. It's the first time the Halos have thrown back-to-back shutouts since July 15-16, 2016, against the White Sox.

Diaz was called up before the game to replace José Suarez in the rotation and shined in his season debut with five scoreless frames. It was a strong effort from the southpaw, who could remain in the rotation going forward. Although with an off-day looming on Thursday, Maddon said the club could go with a five-man rotation short term.

“Diaz came up and threw five scoreless, and you can’t ask for much more than that,” Trout said. “The whole pitching [staff] has been great. It’s been fun to play behind in center field. We’ve had some quick games as well, which is always a plus.”