Nick Tropeano fired a changeup onto the outside corner, turned around, tracked the path of the ball in play, and catapulted his arms into the air, as if to signal a touchdown.
Assailed by injuries, the Angels are searching for starting pitchers they can count on. Tropeano turned in his best performance of the season on Wednesday night, making the case for his viability by shutting the Dodgers down through seven innings. His teammates wholly backed him in a decisive 8-1 victory at Angel Stadium, the Angels’ fifth win in six games.
“That game’s a lot closer than, maybe, it looked,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Nick had to make some good pitches to make it that way.”
Tropeano did not allow his first baserunner until the fourth inning. The closest the Dodgers came until then was Yasiel Puig’s liner to center in the third, clocked at 103 mph yet easily corralled by Mike Trout.
Up next, Trayce Thompson lofted a ball to short right field. It dropped in among three Angels, but also just right of the foul line — that one foot costing the Dodgers two runs.
In the fifth, Carl Crawford singled and appeared poised to score when Chase Utley laced a ball down the right-field line. When it bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, Crawford had to stay at third, and another foot or two had cost the Dodgers an additional run.
Tropeano took his luck and stayed in the game into the seventh, even as he loaded the bases on singles to begin the inning. Scioscia expressed confidence in leaving the 25-year-old right-hander in the game, and Tropeano returned it, striking out Enrique Hernandez and inducing a double-play grounder from Turner on the perfectly-placed change.
When the play was completed, third base to second and on to first, Tropeano raised his arms in delight, knowing his night was done and he had completed the longest start of his major league career.
Trout launched a solo home run off Mike Bolsinger in the first inning, staking the Angels to an early lead. In the Angels’ half of the fourth, Johnny Giavotella hit a ball not far from where Thompson’s ball had landed, but in play, and Puig dove for it. He came up short and appeared hurt while Giavotella took second. Puig stayed in after examination, and Perez did not score after Carlos Perez and Brendan Ryan popped up balls on the infield.
“It could’ve been a frustrating night, but we kept going,” Scioscia said.
Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts pulled Bolsinger when he walked Trout with one out in the fifth inning. Louis Coleman walked Albert Pujols to load the bases, and C.J. Cron knocked a ball to Seager at short, but too far into the hole for Seager to do anything with it. A run scored.
Giavotella patted a ball to Howie Kendrick at first, and Kendrick flubbed it. Another run scored.
“Those weren’t quite happening in April,” Cron said. “It’s nice to get them now.”
Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley takes a seat on the wall after he and right fielder Yasiel Puig couldn’t track down a foul ball hit by the Angels’ Yunel Escobar in the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
How fast can the Angels become a contender while Mike Trout, watching a home run against the Dodgers in May, is still the best player in baseball?(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Angels center fielder Mike Trout celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Dodgers.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Angels catcher Carlos Perez tags out the Dodgers’ Justin Turner, who tried to score from third base on a grounder in the fourth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers left fielder Trayce Thompson fails to make a diving catch on a ball hit by the Angels’ Rafael Ortega in the fifth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers first baseman Howie Kendrick can’t make the play on an infield chopper hit by the Angels’ Johnny Giavotella in the fifth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rafael Ortega flared a ball into left field, and Thompson dove for it, coming up short. Two more runs came around while Ortega took second, and he scored on a sacrifice fly.
The Angels kept up their pace in the sixth, scoring two more runs on a string of hits from Kole Calhoun, Trout and Pujols, and a sacrifice fly from Cron. Trout battled left-hander Adam Liberatore from an 0-2 count to find an agreeable pitch to hit through to left.
In 42 plate appearances after such counts this season, Trout has hit a remarkable .368, with a .429 on-base percentage and a .605 slugging percentage.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter: @PedroMoura