In a span of about 15 minutes Friday night, Angels star Mike Trout showcased the flashiest tools in his belt.
He crushed Chicago White Sox starter Lucas Giolito’s low-hanging slider 438 feet to straight-away center field for his 41st home run of the season in the fifth inning at Angel Stadium. In the sixth, he struggled to grip a ball yet still threw out James McCann trying to advance to third on a fly out. The 91.6-mph rocket one-hopped to Matt Thaiss, who applied a tag on McCann after he slid past the bag. A two-minute review confirmed the out. Trout then recorded the third out on a catch ranging deep in left-center. Trout’s defensive gems kept the Angels within one run of tying the game.
But they did not relieve his team’s offensive woes in a 7-2 defeat. The Angels stranded nine runners. Shohei Ohtani’s soft infield single in the third inning, which scored David Fletcher from third base, was the Angels’ only hit in 12 attempts with runners in scoring position.
One night after thumping 11 hits, the Angels collected only six, none after the sixth inning.
Even Trout was fallible. Representing the tying run, he was thrown out at third trying to advance on a ball hit to short in the seventh. He also struck out looking twice, including to end the game.
Santa Monica native Giolito (13-6) wielded his mid-90s, rising fastball to great effect. He induced 14 swings-and-misses. Any contact made on the pitch was relatively weak. He mixed it with his changeup and slider to strike out 11 and hold the Angels to two runs and six hits in six innings.
“He hides the ball really well,” said Trout, who tied his career high in home runs. “He’s got a good changeup. He’s got that short slot. It’s tough picking it up. That’s why he’s having a great year this year. He’s got great stuff. Had some chances, just fell short.”
Giolito, who has limited batters to a .215 average and struck out 182 this season, befuddled the Angels in three trips through the order. Angels rookie starter Patrick Sandoval was given a much shorter leash. He lasted only 41/3 innings. He was at only 74 pitches, but he already had allowed three runs as he turned Chicago’s mostly right-handed lineup over twice.
Boos greeted manager Brad Ausmus as he emerged to remove Sandoval, a graduate of Mission Viejo High making his first start near home, after the left-hander struck out the first batter of the fifth inning.
“I really never want to hand the ball over when it’s the fifth inning,” Sandoval said. “But he knows what he’s doing. It was the right move, I would say. We got out of the inning and gave us a chance to stay in the ballgame.
“Obviously it’s tough coming out. Friends and family there want to see you go long and I obviously want to stay in there long, but the team is definitely more important than just friends and family out there.”
An early hook from Ausmus is customary. The Angels all season have guarded against allowing pitchers to navigate an opponent’s order more than twice. Even factoring in the opener strategy, Angels pitchers had faced hitters in a third plate appearance only 436 times entering Friday’s game. Every other team in the American League West had at least 160 more plate appearances in that category.
By the end of the third inning, Sandoval had balked and thrown a wild pitch, which allowed Tim Anderson to score Chicago’s second run. Anderson was soon to return to the plate.
Ausmus said he was aware of the looming threat of Anderson, who made hard contact in his last at-bat against Sandoval. He decided to turn to Luis Garcia, who struck out Anderson and handled the next four outs with little difficulty.
“He threw well, he made some good pitches,” Ausmus said of Sandoval. “... Certainly kept us in the game against a very good pitcher.”
On the hook for his first career loss, Sandoval watched Garcia and Adalberto Mejia hold the White Sox to two hits over 22/3 innings. They kept the game within striking distance.
Then Ty Buttrey, who inherited a runner from Mejia, loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning. The rookie, who has allowed 12 earned runs in his 141/3 innings in the second half of the season, hung a center-cut slider to McCann, who barreled the pitch and sent it flying for a grand slam.
“Velocity is for the most part there,” Ausmus said of his struggling reliever. “I would imagine it’s more location [issues] than anything.”
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, on the injured list because of a left ankle sprain and bone bruise, took ground balls and threw Friday. He is getting closer to swinging a bat. ... Reliever Luke Bard was reinstated from the IL and sent to triple-A Salt Lake. ... The Angels will return to playing with 25 men on the roster Saturday. Reliever Noe Ramirez’s three-game suspension will be over.