There was one bright spot for the Angels on Sunday, and it was not the spherical ball of hot plasma that caused problems for their outfielders, who lost two balls in the sun in the team's 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
It was a four-hit game from center fielder Mike Trout, who began the game with a .194 average, one home run and six runs batted in during August, but came within a home run of his second career cycle.
"It's just getting my [front] foot down," Trout said. "The timing was good. I'm not trying to do too much. I was seeing pitches. I put a couple of good swings on the ball. I'm going to keep working and try to carry it into tomorrow."
Trout tripled to center field in the first inning, singled to center in the fourth and doubled to left in the sixth. Needing a home run for the cycle — his first came against Seattle on May 21, 2013 — Trout blooped a run-scoring single to right in the eighth.
Asked whether he tried to hit a home run in his last at-bat, Trout laughed.
"When I do that, I get my foot down late and I get jammed," Trout said. "That's what happened. If I try to kill the ball, I get my mechanics all messed up."
If the Angels are to contend for a playoff spot, they'll need more offense from the entire lineup, but it wouldn't hurt for Trout to regain the stroke that made him one of baseball's best players.
"I've been feeling good at the plate the last couple days," Trout said. "The results aren't there, but that's baseball. You have to stay positive. Once you start thinking negative and trying to change a bunch of things, that's when you get in trouble."
Help is on the way
The Angels don't expect David Freese to be the cure-all for their ailing offense — Freese was hitting .240 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs when he broke his right index finger July 22 — but the third baseman should provide a boost when he is activated Monday or Tuesday.
"Guys like Freese," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "you appreciate them more when they're not there."
In Freese's absence, Conor Gillaspie struggled defensively and was designated for assignment Aug. 18. Taylor Featherston was solid defensively but had a .130 average when he went on the disabled list Aug. 16. Kaleb Cowart has been superb defensively but has looked overmatched at times at the plate.
The Angels also miss second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who was batting .265 when he went on the DL last week because of a medical issue.
His replacements, Grant Green and Ryan Jackson, have combined to hit .120 (three for 25) with 11 strikeouts in nine games, though Green hit a home run Sunday.