Trout provides spark as Angels gain ground

Trout provides spark as Angels gain ground

Trout provides spark as Angels gain ground
ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout had a feeling.

He can't really explain it, or pinpoint what caused it, but as he walked to the plate in the bottom of the seventh on Friday night -- with the bases loaded, two outs in a tied game against the Angels' greatest nemesis -- the 20-year-old swears he felt something.

"It was different tonight," Trout said. "I felt kind of like I wanted to be in that situation."

When Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler bobbled Maicer Izturis' grounder to extend the inning, Trout recalled being "all amped up" in the on-deck circle. Then he heard Torii Hunter shout, "Stay short!" and calmed down. Then that feeling came over him.

What was it?

"Tough to say," Trout said, shaking his head. "I'm always having fun up there, but I just had a feeling I was going to come through. I really can't explain it. Growing up as a kid, you dream of that -- bases loaded and having that big hit. It was big for us."

It was about as big as it gets on June 1.

Trout wound up getting a fastball from Alexi Ogando and spraying it to right-center field, his single plating two runs to give the Angels a 4-2 lead the dynamic back-end duo of Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri held with little problems.

With that -- and plenty more from their rookie -- the Angels (27-26) secured nine wins in their last 10 games and moved to within 4 1/2 games of the Rangers in the American League West, representing the closest they've been since April 16.

They're nowhere near there without Trout, the five-tool leadoff man who has provided the Angels with a necessary spark at the top of their lineup, batting .309 with a .370 on-base percentage, five homers and eight stolen bases.

On Friday night, Trout didn't just drive in the go-ahead runs in a key spot. He also drove in the first with his third triple of the year, came around to score the second and saved a couple of runs by running a mile to track down a ball in deep center field.

In short, he did everything a 20-year-old shouldn't in these kind of games.

"Most guys I knew that were 20, I think they were looking to see who was in the stands every time they swung the bat," said Hunter, who calls Trout "Little Hunt," partly because he asks him so many questions. "This guy, he's very, very impressive as far as plate discipline. He'll take a walk, hit an infield single, he'll drive the ball out of the park, [opposite field]. I like him, man. I like him a lot."

"He's a good player; a real good player," Rangers manager Ron Washington added. "Speed, pop in his bat, makes contact. He's an exciting little player."

Jerome Williams surrendered seven hits and put seven runners in scoring position but gave up only two runs in seven innings.

The Angels' starter, who ran his ERA to 3.68 in the process, got two inning-ending double plays with runners in scoring position off the bat of Mitch Moreland and got help in the top of the seventh from Trout, who ran down Elvis Andrus' two-out line drive just before reaching the warning track to leave two stranded.

"That kid, man," Williams said. "He's amazing."

Did he think Trout had a chance to catch that ball?

"Of course!" Williams bellowed. "Did you see how fast he is? He was playing in, too. He came in and I saw him and I was like, 'Man, were you playing in?' He said, 'Yeah.' I was like, 'Wow, that's good. Thank you.' He's like, 'No problem.'"

Down, 2-0, in the sixth, Trout got the Angels on the board with an RBI triple to right-center field off Rangers starter Colby Lewis -- who had given up only two hits up to that point -- then scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Albert Pujols.

No problem.

Tied in the seventh, the Angels put together a two-out rally on a single by Howie Kendrick, a hit by pitch from Erick Aybar and a misplay by Kinsler, after Ogando had checked in to relieve Lewis. Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, Trout notched a base hit the other way to score two and give the Angels their first lead.

No problem.

"I was just telling myself not to be too big [with the swing]," Trout said. "I could easily try to hit a home run there and fly out. I just tried to stay short and hit the ball up the middle. It got in on me a little bit, but I stayed on it long enough to let it get deep and drop."

Hunter left the Angels for two weeks right after they wrapped up their first series against Texas on May 13, when they were outscored by 12 while losing two of three.

When he came back, after being on the restricted list to be with his teenage son in Texas, Hunter sensed a different kind of energy on this Angels team.

Asked for the reason, Hunter smiled and said: "Just look at who's at the top of the lineup."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.