Mike Trout is a tough out, as the Diamondbacks learn the hard way
There comes a time when mere mortals must pitch to Mike Trout.
You might have thought so in Seattle last week, but the Mariners walked him intentionally, with no one on base.
You might have thought so in his first two plate appearances in Anaheim on Tuesday, when the Arizona Diamondbacks pitched him with the greatest of care, allegedly unintentional walks, one with no one on base and the other with a man on first base.
Then came Trout’s third plate appearance, with the bases loaded and one out. The Diamondbacks could have walked him, but that would have forced in the tying run.
So they pitched to him and, because he is Mike Trout, he cleared the bases with a single, good for the winning runs in the Angels’ 5-4 victory.
The next time up, because he is Mike Trout, he reached first base on a groundout. He had knocked off the catcher’s glove with his swing, and that was good for catcher’s interference.
In his past 37 plate appearances, Trout has reached base 29 times: 16 hits, 11 walks, a hit by pitch, and that catcher’s interference. His batting average over those eight games: .696.
“He’s a guy that, one way or another, each night is going to amaze you.”
In an era that celebrates the strikeout, Trout has more walks than strikeouts and leads the major leagues in home runs.
“If I try to expand the strike zone, that’s when I get in trouble,” Trout said.
He did not hit a home run Tuesday. Two of his teammates did: Ian Kinsler, leading off the first inning, and Calhoun in the sixth.
For Calhoun, who took a .145 batting average with him to the disabled list, the home run was his first since opening day. He has three hits in the two games since the Angels activated him Monday, the first time he has had totaled at least three hits in consecutive games since April 11-12.
“It means a lot to him,” Trout said. “It means a lot to this team.”
Arizona starter Matt Koch carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth, but the Angels loaded the bases with one out, on a walk, single and hit batter. That brought up Trout, who smacked the first pitch into center field for a single that drove in two runs and scored a third, on an error by center fielder Jarrod Dyson.
The Angels finished the game with their right fielder making his major league debut in center field and their third baseman making his professional debut in right field. With Trout at designated hitter and a bench consisting of a backup catcher and two infielders, the Angels had few options when Chris Young left the game because of a balky hamstring.
The Angels are down to three healthy starters — Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and Jaime Barria — in a sport in which teams not named Rays prefer five.
That led the Angels last week to John Lamb, who made his first major league start in two years. He was the Angels’ 10th starter this season.
And that led them on Tuesday to Felix Pena, who made his first major league start. Ever.
Pena is 28, in his 10th professional season. He gave up singles to two of the first three batters he faced, with a wild pitch in between. The fourth batter drove in a run, on a ground ball.
And that was all. Pena lasted four innings and did not give up another hit.
The night belonged to Trout. After the game, he bantered with a radio reporter who was talking up the Chicago Bears.
“I’ve got the Browns having a better record than the Bears,” Trout said.
That might be the ultimate test of Trout’s super powers. The Browns won zero games last year.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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