Most of his teammates had eaten, showered, dressed and departed when Angels center fielder Mike Trout walked into the visitors clubhouse in Comerica Park on Wednesday night, a bat in his hand, beads of sweat on his brow and a look of determination on his face.
The two-time American League most valuable player had just gone hitless in four at-bats with three strikeouts in a 10-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers, prolonging a slump in which he’s gone 10 for 47 (.213) with one homer and six RBIs in 14 games, his average dropping from .333 to .280.
“My setup is not right, my front side is flying open,” Trout said. “It’s an easy fix.”
With a quick turn-around from a night game Wednesday to a day game Thursday, Trout decided to attack the flaw during an intense 15-minute postgame batting-cage session with hitting coaches Jeremy Reed, Shawn Wooten and Paul Sorrento, rather than put it off to Thursday morning.
Trout is not a regular late-night visitor to the cage like nocturnal teammate Andrelton Simmons, but he is not immune to such workouts.
“Only when you got a loose part, you know?” Trout said, when asked whether he hits after games often. “You just don’t see me. Sometimes you need it. Sometimes you need to get back and feel like yourself. The last few weeks, I’ve been trying to get back to that feeling.”
Tyler Skaggs, who gave up two earned runs in 11 innings of his previous two starts after returning from a left-ankle sprain, struggled with the command of all of his pitches and was rocked for eight runs — seven earned — and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking two.
A Tigers offense that ranks last in the AL in runs and homers and 13th in on-base-plus-slugging percentage got a two-run triple, an RBI double and an RBI single from second baseman Ronny Rodriguez and a two-run homer from JaCoby Jones off Angels reliever Cody Allen in the ninth.
Albert Pujols was hitless in four at-bats and is now 0 for 14 since collecting the 1,999th RBI of his career with a home run against the Houston Astros in Monterrey, Mexico, on Saturday.
Shohei Ohtani, in his second start back from Tommy John surgery, was hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout and was hit on his surgically repaired right elbow by an 88-mph Matthew Boyd fastball in the sixth inning. A soft elbow pad bore the brunt of the blow. Ohtani is fine, but his swing is not.
But Trout had a chance to change the course of the game in the third inning when he was given a rare opportunity to hit with runners on second and third and one out, a situation in which the AL leader in walks (33) and intentional walks (seven) would normally get a free pass.
The Angels were trailing 2-1 at the time. Kole Calhoun had reached on an error, and David Fletcher, who led off the game with a homer, hit a one-out double to left. With Ohtani on deck and providing the kind of lineup protection Trout has lacked this season, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire decided to pitch to Trout.
With a 2-and-2 count, Trout got a 92-mph fastball at the top of the zone, the kind of pitch that gave him trouble early in his career but one he has learned how to crush in recent years.
Trout swung right through it for a strikeout, and Ohtani grounded out to shortstop, starting a string in which Boyd retired 10 straight batters.
“I had a bunch of pitches to hit,” Trout said of his third-inning at-bat. “Tonight, I didn’t feel real good at the plate. I didn’t look right. I didn’t feel right. If I fly open, I’m late, and my swing is long. In any swing, if you lose your front side, you’re in big trouble.”
Trout flied out to right field in the first inning and struck out swinging on a 91-mph fastball from Boyd in the sixth. He struck out swinging at a 95-mph fastball from reliever Joe Jimenez in the eighth.
“He’s set such a high standard that if he goes 0 for a game it seems like a slump,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I don’t think he feels great at the plate. I think if he felt great you’d see balls coming off the bat a lot harder and a lot more frequently.
“He’s not immune to slumps. He’s still a hitter, and hitters go through slumps. The better ones don’t go through as many or usually as long, but he’s gone through them before. This isn’t unheard of.”