Reporting from Seattle — As painful as it was at the time, Mike Trout will probably admit now that his demotion to the minor leagues four weeks ago was one of the best things that happened to him this season.
"Once I got sent back down," Trout said, "I wanted to get back up here just as quick as I could."
He was so motivated, in fact, it took him only 19 days to make that happen. And much to the Angels' delight, the player they got back was much better than the one they sent down.
Trout proved that Tuesday, hitting two home runs, scoring three runs and driving in five to lead the slumping Angels to a 13-6 romp over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
The victory was the second in five games for the Angels, who still failed to gain ground in the American League West standings since front-running Texas also won, shutting out Tampa Bay.
Trout, however, is progressing. Rapidly.
In his first trial with the Angels, he had more strikeouts (10) than hits (seven), batting .213 in 43 at-bats. But since returning Aug. 19, he has hit in six of the seven games in which he has played, batting .409 with four homers. And he has struck out only three times.
"I just feel comfortable," said Trout who, at three weeks past his 20th birthday, is the youngest player in franchise history to have a multi-homer game. "I don't have that anxiousness to hit the ball. When I first got up here, I wanted to hit it hard every time. I was trying to impress everybody.
"But now I'm just trying to be myself and not try to do too much. My first couple of weeks I was jittery. Now I actually feel calm."
The same could probably be said of Tuesday's starter, Jerome Williams, a former major leaguer who spent the last four years pitching for the likes of the Uni-President Lions in Taiwan and the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League.
"My confidence is sky high right now," said Williams (2-0) who, in his second start, gave the Angels six strong innings before struggling through the seventh, his last inning of work. "I have the opportunity to come back. I'm going to take advantage of it."
The game had been decided long before Williams left because, after Trout homered in his first two at-bats to give the team a 4-0 lead, the Angels scored a season-high eight runs in the fifth inning, sending eight men to the plate before the Mariners got an out.
The eight runs matched the Angels' combined total from the last two games. Peter Bourjos had two hits in the inning, scoring a run and driving in another, and Trout picked up a run batted in on a bases-loaded walk, then scored three batters later on Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly.
Every starter reached base at least once and everyone except catcher Bobby Wilson scored a run for the Angels, who are averaging 7.3 runs and two home runs over their last 10 games.