Mike Trout’s 299th homer ties Tim Salmon for team record in Angels’ win over Astros
Moments after a baseball disappeared into the outfield hedges at Angel Stadium, Mike Trout pitched his voice just loud enough for the person a few feet in front of him to hear over the din of piped-in crowd noise.
“Simba,” he said, mirth evident in the comment captured by a microphone provided him by Fox Sports West, “I’m comin.’ ”
Andrelton Simmons — or, Simba — had broken into a slow jog when Trout homered in the first inning of Friday night’s 6-5 victory against the Houston Astros, which was sealed by Shohei Ohtani’s walk-off single to right field that scored Trout from second base in the 11th inning. Trout’s trot around the bases was nowhere near as leisurely as Simmons’.
Perhaps it should have been. The homer not only had given the Angels an early 2-0 lead over an Astros rotation that had held opponents to a combined .182 batting average in their first plate appearances of a game. It had put Trout atop MLB’s home run leaderboard.
The blast, his 14th of the season and 299th of his career, also lifted Trout to the top of the franchise chart, where fellow Angels icon Tim Salmon had sat for more than a decade.
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Trout launched a 1-and-0 offering from Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. 412 feet to center field to tie Salmon on the list. The pitch was a clear mistake — a cement-mixer that died smack in the middle of the strike zone. Trout muscled it with ease. He asked for the ball to be retrieved for him and after the game said it was “pretty cool” to be mentioned in the same category as “Tim Salmon, one of the best Angels of all time.”
Trout only enjoyed a brief moment leading the MLB home run race. Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres launched his 14th in a win over the Oakland Athletics.
But he won’t be reached on the Angels’ ledgers for some time. Albert Pujols is the only other active player in the top 10; he’s 85 homers behind Trout and Salmon.
Salmon knew years ago that Trout, who has been named the American League’s most valuable player three times since debuting at 19 in 2011, would catch him on the Angels’ home run list.
“It’s been inevitable,” Salmon said this week. “It’s nothing I’ve held close to me. The last nail in the coffin was when he signed his extension. At that point, it was like, all right, I relinquished the honor in my mind. ... It’s a threshold that’s nice to have, but at the same time, there’s always someone coming to knock you off it.
“You knew it would have to be a hitter who had longevity with the Angels, and that’s exactly what it’s turned out to be in Mike Trout’s case.”
Trout’s success has continued in spite of a worldwide health crisis that nearly made him opt out of the season, and in spite of his team’s bumbling attempts to emerge from the American League West basement.
A two-weeks-long slump notwithstanding, Trout has been one of few bright spots for an Angels squad destined to miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. Even after he struck out in the 10th inning and stranded the potential winning run at third base, Trout had a .998 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. That was good enough to rank 12th in baseball.
It won’t be long until Trout overtakes Salmon’s record, which had stood since Sept. 27, 2006. Salmon hit his 299th homer in the final days of his career. Trout has 10 years remaining on the historic contract he signed in March 2019.
By the end of the deal, the gulf between him and Salmon will likely be too wide to merit the mention of the franchise’s first rookie of the year.
That’s just fine by Salmon.
“I’ve ridden his coattails for way too long,” Salmon said. “I’ve gotten way more publicity because of his successes. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, and good for him. He’s been exciting to watch.”
Ohtani doesn’t know for sure why he stopped playing the outfield during his pro career in Japan but he does have a guess. “Maybe I wasn’t too good at it,” he said through an interpreter. Ohtani, relegated to designated hitting since he strained his forearm in early August, has been practicing in the outfield and taking ground balls at first base for two weeks. Manager Joe Maddon wanted both to keep Ohtani engaged and deduce if the two-way player could nail down a position in the future. Ohtani is open to the idea but he isn’t giving up on pitching in the major leagues yet. ... Top pitching prospect Reid Detmers has been training at the Angels’ alternate site since July but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll get a chance to pitch this season. Maddon said members of the baseball operations staff haven’t discussed the possibility with him yet. ... The Astros will serve as the home team in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Three takeaways on the Angels
— Angels first baseman prospect Jared Walsh has made extremely hard contact since he rejoined the team last week. Of the first 10 balls he put into play, only four left his bat under 97 mph. His average exit velocity continued to climb Friday, courtesy of a solo homer that shot through the sky at 109.7 mph and a long fly ball out that traveled 104.9 mph. His first three hits of the month went for extra bases.
— In his first MLB start in the outfield, Angels newcomer Franklin Barreto was mostly sound behind starter Dylan Bundy. But he took a poor route on a line drive hit by Houston’s Yuli Gurriel, resulting in a double that put runners in scoring position with no outs to start the fourth. Both eventually scored.
— Bundy shut down the Astros the rest of the way. Over seven innings, he gave up six hits and only issued one walk. He also struck out eight. His 2.49 ERA ranks 11th among starting pitchers who have thrown at least 34 innings. The bullpen blew Bundy’s chance at a victory, but reliever Matt Andriese pitched 2 ⅔ scoreless innings to give the Angels a chance in extras.
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
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