It was nearly impossible to see, especially with superstar Mike Trout’s otherworldly numbers to open the season, but he had been struggling a bit in his last three games.
With a first-inning strikeout against Twins left-hander Lewis Thorpe on Friday, Trout struck out in six of his last 10 plate appearances, including four times in Tuesday’s loss to the Royals. But Trout, as he always seems to do, came off that mini-slump with a key two-run single in the sixth inning to give the Angels the lead in a 10-3 win over the Twins in Game 1 of the series. in Angel Stadium. And after the Twins decided to pitch him in that at-bat, they decided to intentionally walk him in the seventh after a 2-2 count, leading to a Justin Upton grand slam with two outs.
“He’s a grinder despite being a baseball superstar,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He grinds all the time. He’s focused and ready and wants to be there right then.”
The Angels allowed three runs in the top of the sixth to lose an early lead, but quickly recovered from Twins reliever Randy Dobnak. David Fletcher pitched one of his typical singles to the shallow right and then Shohei Ohtani broke his bat with a single to center. With some aggressive base runners paying off, Fletcher reached third with a single and Ohtani cleverly took second base, throwing his hands in the air after the play to express his excitement.
It brought out Trout and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who chose not only to pitch the three-time AL MVP, but also to bring to the infield. Trout quickly made Minnesota call with a two-run single that went just over shortstop Jorge Polanco and into left field to give the Angels the lead.
“I felt pretty good at the time,” Maddon said. “They put all three men on that side and he hit between the two of them on that five-six hole. Listen, he’s going to have a lot of those moments to come.”
Trout appeared at another key spot in the seventh with runners in the corners and two outs. Left-hander Caleb Thielbar quickly led the way with a 0-2 count, but after Trout worked it to 2-2, the Twins decided to intentionally walk him to load the bases and get to Upton. It was spectacularly counterproductive for Minnesota, as Upton absolutely erased a left grand slam to end the game on his return after missing two games with back spasms.
“You can understand what Rocco did,” Maddon said. “I’ve actually done it in the past, intentionally walking a runner with two strikes. But J-Up came in and felt really good before the game. He didn’t miss that one. That ball clicked correctly. “
Going 1-for-2 with two walks in the game, the 29-year-old Trout is hitting an incredible .386 / .526 / .750 with four home runs, four doubles and 10 RBIs in 13 games. He has helped the Angels to an 8-5 start to the season that has them halfway through the Mariners for first place in the American League West. And of course it’s been more than just Trout, as Jared Walsh is off to a good start, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, while Fletcher, Ohtani and Upton played key roles in the victory of the Friday.
“I’m looking forward to taking him and the whole group to the playoffs this year,” Maddon said. “So that the boys can have the opportunity to play these kinds of games. We have been playing many of these games. I think it’s great to play against good competition. And Mikey happened again. “