The sun shined brighter than usual at Safeco Field on Sunday afternoon, so Mike Trout went to Justin Upton with a proposition.
“Anything in that gap, I’ll catch,” Trout said of left-center field, where their positions meet. “Unless you’re camped.”
Soon, a ball soared toward that gap, with two outs and a man on third in the second inning. Trout glided to the spot where it would land. By the time he arrived, Upton had camped under it, so Trout said nothing and ceded the catch to his new teammate.
At the last second, Upton stepped away and the ball landed as an RBI triple, a gift that helped the Seattle Mariners score most of their runs in a 5-3 Angels victory.
“I was under it,” Upton said. “I just heard — I’m not going to say where it was from — but I heard someone else calling for it.”
Trout said they concurred that the noise came from behind them, where the Mariners’ bullpen and a raucous bar are both located. Then, to end the sixth, Upton caught another ball in the same spot and heard the call again. As he jogged to the Angels’ dugout, he motioned back toward the area and shouted.
Frustrated, Upton stepped up in the eighth inning after the Mariners intentionally walked Trout. The game was tied, 2-2, and he faced Nick Vincent, who struck him out on Friday. Just like that night, Vincent started Upton with a cutter near the middle of the plate.
This time, Upton drilled it to the wall, the same spot where the mix-up occurred. The double scored the Angels two necessary runs.
Upton scored an insurance run, alertly taking off from third base on a mildly wild pitch from left-hander Marc Rzepczynski.
In Sunday’s first inning, Trout fell behind 0 and 2, then watched three balls pass him by before he pounced on an Erasmo Ramirez cutter and clubbed it 401 feet for a homer to center. They managed just three more hits until Luis Valbuena golfed a game-tying, two-out homer in the seventh.
The gifted second-inning runs were all the Mariners managed against Angels starter Parker Bridwell, who struck out two and yielded seven hits in six innings but stranded runners at a prodigious rate. He repeatedly has done that in his surprise rookie season.
“They got a couple runs off of him,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “but all those balls weren’t hit very hard.”
In a month when he has set an American League record for pitchers used, Scioscia on Sunday relied upon a much more traditional formula. Right-handers Cam Bedrosian, Blake Parker and Yusmeiro Petit handled an inning each, with Jean Segura’s solo shot off Parker the extent of their mistakes.
“Once they throw a pitch I can hit, I need to be swinging at it,” Trout said. “I gotta be selective as well. But when the pitch is there, you gotta do some damage with it.”
He did, and the Angels rose to only one game behind Minnesota in the American League wild-card chase. At 73-70, 19 games remain in their season, and nine are against the league’s two best teams: Houston and Cleveland.
Football dominated the day in the Angels’ clubhouse. The team has been eschewing formalwear in favor of football jerseys for every leg of this three-city road trip, of which Sunday marked the conclusion. Three hours before first pitch marked kickoff of NFL Week 1, and the Angels watched the later games as they dressed afterward.
Every big play fostered a reaction throughout the room. There are favorite teams and fantasy teams to monitor. There is fun to be had, on the baseball field and off of it.
“We’re coming in here, we’re all loose,” Trout said. “It’s going to be a fun next few weeks.”
Left-hander Andrew Heaney will undergo an MRI examination on his left shoulder Monday, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. Heaney exited his Saturday start in the third inning because of what he described as tightness in the shoulder. Heaney said his concern level was minimal. Scioscia refused to rule out Heaney from the Angels’ next turn through their rotation. Because of Monday’s off day, that could come as late as Saturday.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura