Mike Trout leaned forward and extended his hands, stretching to get the barrel of his bat to the far side of the plate. Chicago White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez had put his changeup where he wanted, burying it low and on the outside corner. Trout launched the ball onto the left-center-field rockpile anyway.
“I like it down,” Trout said with a devious grin. “I think everybody knows that.”
In what is shaping up to be a career power year for the two-time MVP — his third-inning home run gave him 40 for the season, one shy of his career high — no pitch near the plate seems like too much to handle, or too well-thrown to crush.
Trout was locked in again Thursday in the Angels’ 8-7 home win against the Chicago White Sox. He scored the opening run after singling in the first. He golfed an inside fastball into shallow center during a three-run fifth. He sparked another three-run rally in the sixth by smoking a single into left. He walked in the eighth to finish the night four for four.
“He was all right,” Ausmus joked. “I thought the home run was impressive because he was fooled on it, he was out in front and he was still able to golf it over the center-field wall.”
After entering the game in a season-long four-game hitless streak, Trout pushed his average up to .298 — still seven points below his career average.
“The last couple days or a week I’ve been battling,” Trout said. “I’m getting good pitches to hit and just fouling them off. I felt a lot better today.”
Trout reached the 40-home-run plateau in a franchise-record 123 games, 13 games faster than Troy Glaus in 2000 and more than a month earlier than his only other 40-homer season in 2015. He upped his league-leading slugging percentage (.665) and on-base-plus slugging percentage (1.109). He tied Cody Bellinger, who also went deep Thursday, for the MLB lead.
“Coming into the season, telling myself I’d hit 40 [home runs], I’d be really happy with that,” Trout said. “I just got to keep it going, try to finish strong and see where it goes.”
The rest of the lineup followed his lead. Justin Upton barely cleared the wall with a three-run laser in the sixth. David Fletcher plated a pair with a bases-loaded single in the fifth. Shohei Ohtani had two hits.
Starter Andrew Heaney gave up two home runs but was otherwise sharp, limiting the White Sox to three runs and four hits in seven innings in his longest start this season.
The bullpen put an 8-3 lead in peril in the ninth. Trevor Cahill gave up two runs, closer Hansel Robles surrendered a two-run homer to Welington Castillo that made it 8-7, and the White Sox had the tying run in scoring position with two outs. Robles finally ended it, fanning Ryan Goins to keep Trout’s big night from going to waste.
Ramirez faces decision
Right-handed pitcher JC Ramirez was outrighted to triple-A Salt Lake on Friday, barely two weeks after being activated for the first time this season. By being outrighted, Ramirez — who was out of options — can either accept the minor league assignment or immediately become a free agent.
Ausmus said he wasn’t sure what Ramirez would choose, but hoped he’d stay with the organization. After returning from Tommy John surgery, Ramirez allowed four runs in eight innings and lacked his usual velocity.
“If he were to go to Salt Lake it would allow us to get him more regular work and hopefully that would aid him in returning to form,” Ausmus said. “We talked to him today and he has to sort through his options.”
Acquired off waivers in 2016, Ramirez went 11-10 with a 4.15 ERA in 24 starts in 2017 before being hurt in just his second game last season.
La Stella feeling better
The last six weeks have been a time for reflection for injured Angels infielder Tommy La Stella. Out since July 3 with a right tibia fracture, the All-Star has thought long and hard about his breakthrough first half — which set him up for career highs in batting average (.300), home runs (16) and RBIs (44) — and how he can stay at that level once he returns.
“Just knowing I’d be down for a couple months, I wanted to keep in mind what I was thinking at the plate and in the field,” La Stella, 30, said, “so that I could stay somewhat fresh for when I got back.”
As to when that might be, La Stella isn’t sure. After suffering the broken bone on a foul ball that hit his shin, the team offered an eight-to-10-week timetable with a September return date. La Stella, who still uses the alter-G machine tojog on a treadmill, couldn’t narrow that window. All he could offer: “I’d like to think we’re getting close.”