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Angels

Angels aren’t quite setting the table for Mike Trout

ANAHEIM, CALIF. - JULY 22, 2018. Angels center fielder Mike Trout rounds the bases after hitting a
Angels center fielder Mike Trout rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning Sunday at Angel Stadium.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The raging inconsistency of the Angels offense was glaring in one statistic before Sunday:

In 17 games as the No. 3 hitter, Mike Trout had yet to drive in one of his teammates.

In the context of a longer and stranger stretch, Trout’s only two runs batted in over his previous 25 games had come on home runs.

That changed in the Angels’ seven-run seventh inning against Houston, Trout hitting a home run that also drove in Andrelton Simmons.

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A day that ended with the Angels setting their season high with 14 runs, began with manager Mike Scioscia pondering an offense that has repeatedly gasped despite Trout’s ominous presence in the middle.

“The goal of him hitting third … is to get him up there, especially early in the game, with more guys on base,” Scioscia said. “We’re not firing on all cylinders for that to happen like we think it will.”

ANAHEIM, CALIF. - JULY 22, 2018. Angels center fielder Mike Trout hits a two-run homer against the
Angels center fielder Mike Trout hits a two-run homer against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning on Sunday at Angel Stadium.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Simplified as much as possible, the biggest issue remains that the best table-setter for the Angels is Trout.

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So, unless baseball allows the Angels to employ a ghost runner for him and allow Trout to bat two or three times in a row, this will remain a problem if his teammates aren’t helping.

“There’s no doubt we need to do a better job of that,” Scioscia said. “It’s one of the things that hopefully him hitting third will accomplish. It has not to this point, but it’s too early to tell.”

Trout had batted second most of this season before Simmons was moved into that spot July 4 and Trout was moved to third.

Since then, Simmons has hit .259, down from his season average of .307. For the year, the Angels’ various leadoff hitters — they’ve tried five players, including Trout for two games — have the worst on-base percentage in the majors.

Only 37% of Trout’s at-bats this season have come with runners on base. Teammates Justin Upton (53%) and Albert Pujols (50%) have batted at least half the time with someone on.

“Way too small [of a sample] to say, ‘Hey, it is working or no?’ ” Scioscia said. “Let’s check in after another 20 games and see if we get a little bigger picture here to see if the guys are setting the table a little bit for Mike.”

Shift in approach

He is one of the Angels’ most potent hitters, Shohei Ohtani in May belting a batting practice home run that Angel Stadium observers estimated traveled 513 feet.

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Scioscia, however, supported Ohtani trying to beat the defensive shift by bunting for a hit, something he tried Saturday against Houston.

“I think the premise of it is very sound,” Scioscia said. “There are going to be times when it’s there and you need to take advantage of it.”

Ohtani’s effort failed when pitcher Justin Verlander fielded the ball and threw to second base to force out Upton.

Scioscia approved of the rookie’s decision, particularly against Verlander, who lately has dominated the Angels.

He said Ohtani, early in the season, asked about bunting on his own in certain situations and was given the OK.

“He feels very comfortable and confident doing it,” Scioscia said. “I was fine with it.”

Short hops

Reliever Jim Johnson was activated from the disabled list and pitched in the eighth inning. Taylor Cole was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake. … Jaime Barria will be recalled and start Monday against the Chicago White Sox.

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jeff.miller@latimes.com


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