In a season that has gone so horribly wrong for the Angels, this was hardly a surprise: Mike Trout had to come out of Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury.
Fortunately for an already depressed fan base, the Angels apparently will not have to play out this sorry season without their brightest star. Trout and Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said the injury was nothing more than a little tightness, and Trout said he hoped to return Monday.
That was the extent of the good news, in the wake of the Angels' 7-5 loss to the Houston Astros. The Angels lost a series to the Astros — the worst team in the major leagues — for the third time this season. The Angels are 7-9 against Houston, a team on pace to lose 100 games for the third consecutive season.
"Some years, some teams just have your number," Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton said.
The Angels, built upon dreams of Southern California dominance, have the worst record in the region, and never mind those rampaging Dodgers.
The Angels are 55-68. The San Diego Padres are 56-68, at roughly half the Angels' payroll.
Trout, who has played in all but one of the Angels' 123 games, singled and doubled Sunday to lift his batting average to .333. That ranks second in the American League behind Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, who is batting .360.
Trout said he felt the hamstring discomfort while running out the double, in the third inning. He said he felt subsequent stiffness and alerted the coaches in the fifth inning, and they promptly removed him from the game.
"It's not like it popped or anything," Trout said. "It was just a little grab. I'll come in tomorrow with the mind-set of playing.
"If it's sore, I'm not going to push it. I'm a speed guy. I've got to take care of my legs."
Trout has reached base in 40 consecutive games. The club record is 63, set by Orlando Cabrera. The major league record is 84, by Ted Williams.
"I take pride in getting on base," Trout said. "It's pretty special. It's pretty cool."
The Angels' projected starting outfield this season was Trout in left field, Peter Bourjos in center and Hamilton in right. They finished Sunday's game with J.B. Shuck in left, Collin Cowgill in center and Kole Calhoun in right – with those players occupying the first three spots in the lineup, in that order.
Matt Dominguez hit the game-winning home run for the Astros, snapping a 3-3 tie with a three-run shot off Angels reliever Juan Gutierrez in the seventh inning. Dominguez, who played at Chatsworth High, tied a career high with four hits.
Mark Trumbo homered and drove in three runs for the Angels. Trumbo leads the team in home runs (28) and runs batted in (81).
The Angels' bullpen has posted a 4.54 earned-run average, ranking 28th among the 30 teams. They have shuttled 20 pitchers in and out of the bullpen, trying desperately to find relievers good enough to stay.
But Scioscia cited a new weakness: the few relievers who have been good enough to stay are worn down.
"A couple guys are exhausted," Scioscia said. "Let's just say it. Many guys are throwing too much, so you have to make decisions on giving guys days off, which has further thinned some of the depth."
Scioscia declined to identify which of his relievers might be exhausted, but the top three — Dane De La Rosa, Ernesto Frieri and Michael Kohn — could face the greatest workloads of their professional careers.
De La Rosa is on pace to pitch in 74 games, 15 more than his previous career high. Kohn is on pace for 61, one more than his previous career high — and one year after Tommy John surgery. Frieri is on pace to tie his high of 67, set last season.
Frieri had an ERA of 2.88 in the first half but is at 10.45 in the second half. Kohn's ERA was 2.54 in the first half and is 7.36 in the second half.
De La Rosa's 3.65 second-half ERA is only slightly worse than his 3.53 in the first half, but his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) has jumped from 1.059 to 1.500.