The American League most valuable player debate is heating up, with Baltimore’s Chris Davis muscling his way into the conversation with Angels center fielder Mike Trout and Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera.
“Yeah, here we go again,” said Trout, who won rookie-of-the-year honors and finished second to Cabrera inMVP voting last season. “It definitely feels good to be out there with Miguel and Chris.”
Like 2012, Trout’s MVP chances will be hurt by the fact that the Angels, who lost to the Texas Rangers, 8-3, Tuesday night, are out of playoff contention while Cabrera’s Tigers lead the AL Central and Davis’ Orioles are in the wild-card race.
But a bigger obstacle to the award might be the slim pickings Trout is getting at the plate in the wake of a July 27 foot injury that could sideline slugger Albert Pujols, who hit behind Trout, for the season.
In 11 games since Pujols went down, Trout has walked 18 times, four of them intentional, bringing his free-pass total to 67, most in the league. Has Trout, who turns 22 on Wednesday, noticed a big difference in how he is being pitched?
“Uh, yeah, I’ve been walking two or three times a game,” Trout said. “They’re nibbling more. I’m looking for one pitch. If I don’t get it, I’m not not swinging.”
Trout, who is batting .331 with 19 home runs, 68 runs batted in, 79 runs, 24 stolen bases and a major league-high 44 multi-hit games, is determined not to chase pitches outside the strike zone.
“A walk is as good as a hit to me,” Trout said. “I’m going to keep the same approach. I’ll get into trouble if I get jumpy and swing at bad pitches. That’s when I get myself out.”
Manager Mike Scioscia believes Trout’s speed can deter opponents from pitching around him.
“Mike’s talent is he can turn a walk into a double, so any time you pitch around him, there’s a probabilty of putting a guy in scoring position,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully, we’ll take advantage of that.”
Right-hander Yu Darvish went after Trout on Tuesday night and paid a price. Trout hit a home run in the first inning and singled in the seventh.
Trout’s home run came on the heels of Kole Calhoun’s leadoff home run, the second time in club history the Angels opened a game with two home runs. The last two to do it were Rex Hudler and Don Slaught against Baltimore on May 21, 1996.
The Rangers ended a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning when Elvis Andrus singled, stole second, took third on Ian Kinsler’s groundout and scored on Adrian Beltre’s single to right field past a drawn-in infield. Texas, which had six stolen bases in the game, scored four runs in the ninth, three on singles against Ernesto Frieri.
It takes a thief
The Rangers’ six stolen bases were one shy of the Angels’ club record for stolen bases allowed in a game, but Scioscia didn’t blame catcher Chris Iannetta. Rather, he had harsh words for his pitchers, who struggled to hold runners on.
“This is not on Chris at all — he’s throwing well,” Scioscia said. “This is about the inability of some of our pitchers to make adjustments. The reality of it is, if this is going to become an instructional league, we have to make some changes, because guys up here need to do a better job.”
Scioscia said starter Garrett Richards, who allowed three stolen bases, has “made great strides holding runners.” Relievers Kevin Jepsen, Nick Maronde and Frieri, who yielded three stolen bases, apparently have not.
“Some guys are in poor rhythm, some have a high leg kick, some have the same rhythm, where runners are getting jumps,” Scioscia said. “As much as we’ve worked on it, some guys are having trouble making adjustments.”
Howie Kendrick avoids the DL, for now
An MRI exam on Howie Kendrick’s left knee, injured Monday night, revealed a sprain but no significant structural damage. The Angels will give the injury four or five days to heal before deciding whether to put Kendrick on the disabled list.
To add infield depth, the Angels called up Grant Green, acquired from Oakland last week, from triple A and sent reliever Daniel Stange to Salt Lake. Green got his first two big league hits, singles in the second and fourth innings.
Center fielder Peter Bourjos, out since June 30 because of a broken bone in his right wrist, will begin a minor league stint of four to seven games with Salt Lake on Thursday. ... Sean Burnett will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair a small tear in the flexor tendon near his elbow, but the left-hander is expected to be ready for spring training.