Even on a bad day, it is usually good to be Mike Trout on a baseball diamond, but it was hard to imagine life getting much better in a midseason road series than it was on Sunday.
The Angels were pounding the Texas Rangers for the third game in a row. They eventually would win, 12-6, their lineup exploding for 33 runs in the series. Meanwhile, the first-place Houston Astros had lost, which meant the Angels moved to within three games of the American League West lead.
And, in the middle of the game, Trout was named an All-Star game starter. In four full seasons, Trout has never missed an All-Star game. He is now a starter for the third time in a row. Last year, he was the game’s most valuable player.
“It’s definitely an honor, for sure,” Trout said.
And then, in the sixth inning, the party was put on hold.
In what was then a 10-run game, Trout crashed hard into the center field wall. He missed preventing a run-scoring double by about six inches. After falling onto his side and rolling over, he took a moment to pop up and retrieve the ball.
Members of the training staff hurried out, ignoring his dismissive waves. As he waited for them, he watched his near miss on the video board. When the replay was over, he cracked a smile. He wouldn’t let that ruin his day.
He was fine, he said.
“Just one of those ones that I should’ve caught,” he said.
It was just about the only ball that didn’t fall the Angels’ way over the weekend. Trout was their only representative among the American League All-Star starters, and given the Angels’ mediocre start, they did not deserve many more. But on Sunday, he was actually one of the lineup’s least productive members. For the Angels, that was a good sign.
Manager Mike Scioscia has long been searching for production from anyone besides Trout and first baseman Albert Pujols. Left-hander C.J. Wilson called it “the NTP offense — the non-Trout-and-Pujols guys.”
For a series, the NTP team looked like an All-Star team.
Kole Calhoun was six for 14 with two home runs and 10 runs batted in. Erick Aybar was nine for 13. David Freese was five for 12. Johnny Giavotella drove in four runs.
It was the Angels’ highest-scoring series all season, including series that went four games. They had 47 hits. They’ve now won seven of eight games.
Suddenly, a team floating by on its starting pitching has found a spark in the lineup.
“Our offense blossomed,” Scioscia said.
“Everybody’s got a sore hand from all the high-fives,” Wilson said.
The All-Star game’s actual starters featured some more consistent first-half performers — and more Kansas City Royals, including both of Trout’s teammates-to-be in the outfield, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. Royals fans, who filled out ballots in droves, gave Salvador Perez the easy win among catchers and Alcides Escobar a big cushion in the shortstop vote.
Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was named the starting first baseman, but he will be on the disabled list and will require a replacement. Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros will start at second base, Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners at designated hitter, and Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays’ at third base. Donaldson earned more votes than anyone in the league, beating Trout by more than 77,000 votes.
Interestingly, the Angels’ Albert Pujols finished a distant fifth in the first-base voting. After another home run Sunday, Pujols is batting .265 with 25 home runs and 53 RBIs. The All-Star pitchers and reserves will be announced Monday.
Pujols has said he will participate in the home run derby if he makes the team. On Sunday, he said he will give a definite answer once the full team is announced. As for his All-Star candidacy, he said, “I don’t control that.”
Trout said Pujols “deserves to be there, for sure.”
Trout, who has also entertained the idea of participating in the homer contest, said, “After this weekend cools down maybe I’ll make a decision.”