Monday, June 24, 2024

Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani hit back-to-back homers in Angels’ win

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No one expected Mike Trout’s puzzling to slump to last as long as it has, and now perhaps it’s finally over.

Trout homered just after Shohei Ohtani put the Angels up with a two-run homer in the fifth inning of the Angels’ 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon.

Ohtani, who leads the majors with 24 homers, has been sizzling for a month, while the Angels have been waiting for Trout to join him.

Even with only one of their sluggers slugging, the Angels had been winning, now with 11 victories in their last 14 games to bring a 41-33 record back home for a two-game series against the Dodgers beginning Tuesday. The Angels pulled ahead of the Houston Astros, into second place in the American League West and sole possession a wild-card spot.

The leader during the hot streak has been Ohtani, who hit seven homers in the Angels’ seven-game trip. Meanwhile, many around the Angels were quietly — or not so quietly — concerned about Trout.

Trout came into the game hitting .252 with an .820 OPS, well below his career averages of .300 and .993. Over the previous 42 games, he’d hit .207 with a .687 OPS, with no homers since June 7.

“I was never worried about it at all,” manager Phil Nevin said. “I’ve seen this before. Just as any good player goes through some struggles, compounded a little bit because it was every single day. He put in a lot of work. He kind of backed off his work. He added some work. The fact is he’s healthy.”

Trout has said all along that he’s feeling good, and he shrugged at various times during the cold streak, saying that either his timing or pitch recognition was not what it normally is.

He said it finally started to feel right on Saturday, when he doubled, singled and walked, with a single on a 99 mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman.

“I felt like myself,” Trout reiterated on Sunday.

The difference?

“I think the biggest thing is I wasn’t loading, I was just gliding forward,” Trout said. “I had nothing behind it. That’s why I was under everything. Just trusting my work these last couple days. It’s been great.”

Sunday, Trout drew a walk from veteran Zack Greinke in the first inning. In the fourth, he yanked a double into left field. And in the fifth, just after Ohtani had homered to put the Angels up 3-2, Trout pulled his 15th homer of the season over the left-field fence.

In the ninth, another struggling Angels hitter, Jared Walsh, hit a homer to give the Angels an insurance run. Walsh, who missed the first quarter of the season after dealing with neurological issues, had been hitting .111.

It was enough for a victory for Angels starter Tyler Anderson, who gave up two runs in five innings.

Although the left-hander has a 5.64 ERA, he has managed to get through at least five innings with the Angels in the game or ahead regularly. The Angels are 9-4 in his 13 starts.

“When I’m not pitching my best, which I haven’t been, just try to give us a chance to stay in the game,” Anderson said.

This time they were able to turn the game over to Jaime Barría in the sixth inning. Barria is the Angels’ No. 6 starter, but they have two off days this week, so they are able to use him out of the bullpen for now.

The Angels needed a fresh arm in the bullpen after the relievers were worked heavily earlier this week in Texas, which may have contributed to their meltdown on Saturday in Kansas City.

Barria worked three scoreless innings, and then closer Carlos Estévez pitched the ninth to pick up his 19th save in 19 tries. Estévez equaled the Angels record by converting his first 19 save opportunities of the season.

It sent the Angels into a happy clubhouse, having quickly put Saturday’s nightmare behind them with a victory, and also with the confidence that perhaps now they’ll have both of their stars hitting.

“You can’t win games with just two guys,” Nevin said, “but I think if there were any two back-to-back in this league that can do it, it’s those two that can carry a team for quite a while. … When your superstars step up in big places, it gives everyone else around lot of confidence. We know we can compete with anybody.”

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