Mike Trout has had enough experience and success against Felix Hernandez to know how to get the better of the Seattle ace, who has been one of baseball’s best pitchers for a decade.
“He throws all of his pitches for strikes at any time and in any count,” the Angels center fielder said. “You have to get a pitch to hit and hit it. If you miss your pitch, he puts you in a hole.”
Trout got just such a pitch in the sixth inning Saturday night, an 89-mph fastball that Hernandez left up and over the middle. Trout did not miss it, crushing a two-run homer that traveled 435 feet to center field to push the Angels toward a 4-2 victory over the Mariners.
Trout’s homer improved his career average against Hernandez to .368 (25 for 68) with five homers and 15 runs batted in and made a winner of Hector Santiago, who gave up two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking two.
But Rafael Ortega opened the bottom of the sixth with a single to left, and Trout, his right foot still sore from the foul ball he hit off it in the fourth, followed with his game-turning blast.
“Mike has had success off a lot of pitchers,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, “but to have success off of someone in Felix’s class says a lot about a player.”
Trout also made the defensive play of the game in the seventh, fielding Adam Lind’s liner off the wall and firing a one-hop throw to second baseman Cliff Pennington, who made the scoop and tag for the second out.
“That throw,” Scioscia said, “is as good as it’s going to get.”
Trout’s arm has improved since his rookie season in 2012 thanks to daily long-toss sessions with right fielder Kole Calhoun, but the play also required timing and precision.
“I told myself, it’s hit so hard, I have a chance to throw him out at second,” Trout said. “I got it off the wall, got a good grip and just fired it.”
Trout had some web-gem competition from shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who saved a run in the first when, with a runner on third, he raced into shallow left and made an over-the-shoulder catch of Cruz’s flare to end the inning.
With the Angels leading, 3-2, speedy Seattle leadoff man Nori Aoki led off the eighth with a grounder to the hole. Simmons backhanded the ball and, in what seemed like one motion, transferred it to his right hand and made a strong throw to first.
“It literally looked like the ball never touched his glove, and he’s throwing it to first,” Santiago said. “Unbelievable.”
Simmons said he messes “around with that play in practice just in case, and today, the in-case came. Normally, it doesn’t come out that good.”
The play helped Joe Smith, who went on to hit two batters with two outs in the eighth, avoid damage. The Angels, who scored their first run on Pennington’s homer in the third, added a run in the eighth when Ortega singled, took second on an error and scored on Calhoun’s two-out single to left for a 4-2 lead.
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