Mike Trout on Sunday had a batting average of .000, “Trout” and a string of zeroes rarely appearing in the same sentence.
Of course, that was over only a single game, a sample size comically small but also fully representative on a day of lost chances and a lost game, the Angels falling to Minnesota 7-5.
“Mike’s never that far off,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Occasionally, you’re going to have some stretches where hits aren’t falling in.”
This stretch included all nine innings against the Twins, Trout going hitless in five at-bats, each of which came with runners on base.
Before Sunday, he was batting .317 this season under such circumstances, with a 1.037 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
So Trout stranding eight runners as the team was three for 15 with men in scoring position was the sort of development the Angels aren’t used to seeing.
This is especially true during a season in which he’s threatening to break Babe Ruth’s all-time record for WAR, a rough but revered measure of a player’s overall value.
“His approach is good,” Scioscia said of Trout, who has two hits in his last 19 at-bats. “His process is good. He’ll be fine.”
The Angels won two of three games against Minnesota but scored only 10 runs and batted .212 (21 for 99, 23 strikeouts).
Of particular note other than Trout, Luis Valbuena was hitless in 11 at-bats with six strikeouts and Justin Upton was one for nine.
Still, the Angels had an opportunity in the ninth inning against closer Fernando Rodney after Albert Pujols’ two-out, two-run single. With the tying run on first base, Zack Cozart popped out.
“There’s no doubt we had chances,” Scisocia said. “We kept pressuring them early in the game. We just couldn’t keep building on that.”
Before Pujols’ ninth-inning hit, the Angels scattered a trail of empty moments. Here, presented in chronological order, are the results of their other at-bats with two runners on base:
Single, strike out, fly out, pop out, pop out, line out, single, sacrifice fly, strike out, ground out, strike out, ground out, pop out, pop out.
Lost, too, was the chance given Nick Tropeano, the Angels starter who surrendered two early runs but then watched his teammates come back to take a 3-2 lead after four innings.
“When the offense puts up runs, it’s my job to go out there and throw up zeroes,” Tropeano said. “I just didn’t do that today.”
Things went to pieces for him when the first five Twins to bat in the fifth inning reached base, three of them eventually scoring.
Tropeano (3-4) gave up two walks, a single, a double and a triple before being relieved by Cam Bedrosian, who gave up a run-scoring double.
The inning was a stark turn for Tropeano, who began the fifth having retired 10 batters in a row.
“I just got to do a better job of executing pitches with runners in scoring position,” he said. “That’s on me. Overall, not a good day.”
The Angels head to Seattle for three games against one of baseball’s most surprising stories. The Mariners not only sit atop the American League West but have risen to that perch without Robinson Cano.
In fact, Seattle greatly improved in mid-May after Cano was suspended for 80 games because of a failed drug test.
The Angels and Mariners last met May 6, a day that ended with the Angels leading the division and 1½ games ahead of third-place Seattle. Since then, the Mariners are 22-10 and the Angels 16-16.
But that’s baseball, where fortunes can change quickly, even for someone like Mike Trout.