The Angels veered toward another close loss on Saturday night until Mike Trout graced his teammates with an extension. He did not make an out all night, but they soon went right back off track.
Down one run to Detroit in the seventh inning at Angel Stadium, Trout tied the score with one ferocious swing. He sent an errant fastball 431 feet to left-center for his 10th home run of 2017, also his longest. The score remained that way until nascent closer Bud Norris gave up the go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth, and the Angels fell 4-3.
To begin, right-hander Ricky Nolasco turned in another functional, unspectacular start.
“It was one of those days where I didn’t have much going,” he said.
He walked as many men as he struck out — four — but gave up three runs in six innings, so he was awarded a quality start. Angels manager Mike Scioscia often sings the praises of that statistic and its correlation to victories.
All three of the runs Nolasco bore scored on home runs. He gave up two, to raise his 2017 total to 13, the third-most in the majors. That total is already half of the 26 he gave up in 2016, though he has made only one-quarter as many starts.
“It’s a byproduct of not being as crisp with your command to this point,” Scioscia said. “He’s not quite where he hopes to be, and sometimes he pays the price for it.”
J.D. Martinez was the first Tiger to strike, drilling a second-inning fastball to left for a two-run homer. He later beat Norris on a hanging slider he pounded to right.
“I know I didn’t execute that pitch,” Norris said. “But I can make a better pitch next time.”
In between Martinez’s homers, Justin Upton lofted a ball inside the left-field foul pole for a solo shot.
Batting with one out in the fifth, Danny Espinosa ripped a ball to third and sprinted down the line but was thrown out by one foot. That foot forced him into ignominious territory, as his hitless streak stretched to 36 at-bats, the longest in Angels franchise history. At 0 for 35, Reggie Jackson had owned the record.
The Angels (18-21) then rallied with two outs, and Albert Pujols knocked in two runs on a bases-loaded single.
In the sixth, Espinosa ended his streak when he hit a two-out double.
Scioscia said the team has discussed the possibility of playing Luis Valbuena at second base on occasion. “On a limited basis, it’s certainly something that we would consider,” Scioscia said. The Angels possess a greater need for hitting at second than first base, where Valbuena has been playing since his activation earlier this month. He has played plenty of second base in his career, but not much since 2014. The manager said playing him at the position regularly would risk too much, considering his recent history of hamstring strains. …Third baseman Yunel Escobar exited after five innings because of a cramping hamstring. The Angels pronounced him day to day, and he’s unlikely to play Sunday.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura