The Angels trailed by one run with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning Saturday at Kauffman Stadium. Up strolled their No. 2 hitter, the spot where many baseball analysts and observers now believe a team’s best hitter should bat.
But Mike Trout hits in the traditional No. 3-hole for Mike Scioscia’s Angels, so he stood on deck. At the plate was Ben Revere, the Angels’ fourth outfielder, and the least likely hitter in all of baseball to hit a home run. He struck out looking on three pitches, and Trout reverted to the dugout as the Angels finalized their 3-2 loss to Kansas City.
“I obviously wanted to hit,” Trout said. “But we had some chances, just couldn’t capitalize.”
Trout said he did not mind the predicament presented by Saturday’s finish.
“I like hitting third,” he said. “Some games I come up, some games I don’t. But, obviously, with Scioscia, it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy I’m in the lineup.”
An eighth-inning home run by Chatsworth High graduate Mike Moustakas supplied the Royals’ winning run. The Angels have lost four consecutive games.
It was a tight game throughout, and the Angels took an early lead. With one out in the first inning, Revere tapped a grounder through the left side, and took third base when Trout singled to right field. Trout then swiped second base, which eliminated the double-play possibility, a factor that came into play when Albert Pujols grounded to shortstop. Instead of the inning coming to an end, the Angels scored their first run.
With two outs in the sixth, Trout battled back from an 0-and-2 count to work a nine-pitch walk. Pujols followed with a single, then Royals right-hander Nathan Karns uncorked a wild pitch. At that point, Kansas City Manager Ned Yost opted to intentionally walk Kole Calhoun, to Calhoun’s surprise, and load the bases for Andrelton Simmons.
Yost then ordered an intentional walk of Trout. Pujols stepped up with the bases loaded and hammered a baseball foul. In a 3-and-2 count, Pujols watched a 93-mph fastball travel through the inside of the strike zone without swinging and home-plate umpire Ed Hickox called him out on strikes.
Angels starter Matt Shoemaker required 33 pitches to finish the first inning, making a lengthy stint unlikely. But he needed only 10 to get out of the second and 13 to get through the third, thanks to a double-play ground ball by Eric Hosmer on a 3-and-1 pitch. Shoemaker retired six of seven Royals he faced in the fourth and fifth innings, but the one man to reach base, Brandon Moss, hit a home run on a hanging splitter.
“It was just a battle today,” said Shoemaker, who lasted 51/3 innings. “That’s the best way to put it.”
In the sixth, Shoemaker struck out Lorenzo Cain, then walked Hosmer on 10 pitches and shouted at Hickox for several seconds. The penultimate pitch appeared to be within the zone, and Shoemaker seemed to let Hickox know that.
Scioscia then came for Shoemaker, and right-hander Bud Norris finished the inning. Blake Parker pitched a scoreless seventh. To begin the bottom of the eighth, left-hander Jose Alvarez served up the solo shot to Moustakas.
That was the game’s difference. To begin the top of the ninth against Royals closer Kelvin Herrera, Scioscia opted to pinch-hit utility man Cliff Pennington rather than C.J. Cron or Jefry Marte, who have more power.
Scioscia said he wanted Pennington up to spark a rally with his on-base ability.
Pennington grounded out, leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar flied out, and Revere was called out on strikes.
The Angels were 6-2 on Wednesday afternoon, on top of the unsuspecting baseball world. Now they are 6-6, back in the middle of the pack, where most thought they always belonged. It is still early.