Mike Trout’s blast not enough for Angels as Mookie Betts, Dodgers rally to win in 10
Mike Trout crushed his ninth homer of the season Saturday night, his 433-foot blast bouncing near the rock pile at Angel Stadium and giving his team a first-inning lead over the rival Dodgers and young ace Walker Buehler.
Four innings later, he gave the Angels another lead on a hard-hit fielder’s choice.
But it wasn’t enough in a game the Dodgers went on to win 6-5 in 10 innings.
Trout’s Angels suffered their 14th defeat of the season despite reliever Keynan Middleton retiring the three batters he faced in the top of the 10th inning. Under a new rule for the 2020 season, Major League Baseball stipulates that a runner start at second base in each extra inning. Chris Taylor, a better-than-average runner, was that man for the Dodgers.
While Middleton focused on Max Muncy at the plate, Taylor flashed his speed. He took off for third base and beat the throw from Angels catcher Max Stassi. It was the Dodgers’ third stolen base of the night.
Muncy then sent Taylor home on a sacrifice fly ball to deep right field.
Dodgers’ hitters have had to change their approaches with players barred from video rooms as part of MLB’s rules this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen didn’t allow the Angels to take advantage of their prescribed runner. Jansen retired the top of the Angels lineup in order. Trout, whom Jansen pumped with three straight high fastballs, was called out on strikes to end the game.
“I’ve been asked not to comment on things that I don’t like,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said when asked to describe his frustration after losing the game despite not allowing an RBI hit after the seventh inning.
Earlier in the night, Mookie Betts, who beat out Trout for the American League MVP two years ago, crushed his eighth homer of the year to left-center field off Angels reliever Felix Peña. The solo shot allowed the Dodgers to tie the Angels 5-5 in the seventh inning.
The Angels had held on to a 5-4 lead for barely an inning when Betts punished Peña’s middle-of-the-zone fastball. They had to overcome left-handed starter Andrew Heaney’s early stumbles.
On Sunday, the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts will partner with Pull Up Neighbor to provide pandemic necessities and voter registration services in Compton.
Heaney labored through three innings, needing 69 pitches to face 17 batters in that span. He issued three walks and gave up five hits.
Of the five hits in the first three innings, two belonged to Cody Bellinger. The haze of his early-season slump appeared to have lifted. He smacked a single into center to lead off the second inning, stole second base and came around to score on Betts’ two-run single. Betts’ hit tied the game 2-2.
Bellinger later started a two-out rally in the third, scorching a pitch to right field. The ball left Bellinger’s bat at 107.5 mph. Taylor followed with a double up the middle.
That’s when Muncy, who was five for 44 with 15 strikeouts and five walks in his previous 12 games, flipped a switch of his own. He sliced a ground ball into left field, deep enough for Bellinger and Taylor to race home and give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead.
Key plays from the Dodgers’ 6-5, 10-inning win over the Angels on Saturday night.
Muncy, who had played every game this season before receiving a day off Friday, ended the night with three RBIs and a couple of flashy plays at third base. He dived to his left to stifle Trout’s ground-ball in the fifth and fed the ball to second baseman Kiké Hernández. The hit-stealing play secured the Dodgers’ second out of the inning.
“For him to go out there and play third to give [Justin Turner] a day off his legs and then to take the at-bat that he did, drive in three, the walk — it’s just kind of that typical Max Muncy game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So hopefully that day off got him right because he’s not going to have many more going forward.”
The Dodgers have been able to begin the season with one of the National League’s best records despite slow starts from Bellinger, Muncy and Joc Pederson. Their lineup is productive enough. They entered Saturday’s game batting a collective .240 — a tick above the league average of .239 — with a .772 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
The Angels, meanwhile, ranked 23rd in average (.233) and 18th in OPS (.739).
They went two for nine with runners in scoring position Saturday, deepening a season-long deficiency. The Angels are hitting .222 with a .321 OBP in those situations. Both marks rank in the bottom third among baseball’s 30 teams.
Anthony Rendon owned one of the hits. His ground-rule double in the bottom of the third inning brought home Tommy La Stella, who had doubled with two outs, and cut the Angels’ deficit to 4-3.
The knock also seemed to pacify Heaney, who retired eight of the final nine batters he faced. He departed after 5-2/3 innings, having given up five hits, four walks and four runs. He also struck out six.
Heaney wasn’t content with a moral victory.
“Giving up two-out hits, having two outs and nobody on and having that turn into two runs,” Heaney said. “Those sorts of things are the things that you look back and that’s what loses you close games like this. It feels like we’ve been close and it feels like there’s times where we’re getting ready to turn a corner and then we lose games like this.
“I think guys are ready to turn that corner.”
The Dodgers’ focus on developing young homegrown starting pitchers has resulted in sustained effectiveness and a rosy future.
Saturday’s outing represented a regression for Buehler. The right-hander began the season behind the Dodgers’ other starting pitchers and needed two starts to find his footing. His third performance was his best, a promising step forward against the San Francisco Giants.
He couldn’t escape the fifth inning Saturday. He exited with two outs and Trout at second base in the fifth. He allowed four runs on five hits across the 4-2/3 frames. He had four walks, six strikeouts and a frustrating night.
“He’s really close,” Roberts said. “I really believe that. There were some calls in that game that could’ve gone either way, but I really think the stuff was good. I think the command was good. You’re still trying to navigate a great lineup over there. I really think that next one he’s going to hit his stride.”
Three observations on the Angels
— David Fletcher stretched his hitting streak to 14 games, a career high. The utility player has recorded a hit in 19 of the Angels’ 21 games.
— Reliever Hansel Robles, who was demoted from the closer role after giving up nine earned runs in 3-2/3 innings to start the season, recorded his fifth consecutive scoreless outing. He hasn’t given up a run since the Angels decided to go with a closer committee.
— In his second at-bat against the team that almost traded for him, Luis Rengifo softly swatted a ball into shallow center field for a base hit. The single started a two-run rally. It was also Rengifo’s fifth hit of the season.
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