Mike Trout, disruptive force

June, 3, 2012
6/03/12
12:02
AM PT
Mike TroutJeff Gross/Getty ImagesMike Trout, who scored the winning run Saturday, has kept the Rangers on their heels lately.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels are a more uncomfortable team to play since they added Mike Trout.

It's not just the speed. It's the intent. He runs hard all the time, perhaps oblivious to the other major-leaguers who think playing at 70 percent most of the time is acceptable. And he knows what his speed can do to disrupt the other team, so he's looking to force it on them as much as possible.

The Texas Rangers are a seasoned ball club, probably the best team in the American League for the third straight season, but they looked flustered Saturday night trying to contain the white-and-red blur wearing 27 that thundered around them on the base paths.

Elvis Andrus, an acrobatic defender prone to mental mistakes, twice allowed Trout's speed to flummox him. He rushed and threw high in the first inning for an error, then played back and realized he had no play -- not even bothering to throw -- on an infield hit in the seventh.

And Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz, whose powerful right arm normally prevents runners from trying to advance, couldn't throw Trout out on a close play at the plate that led to the winning run in the Angels' 3-2 win.

All of which led Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson to take a subtle, or perhaps intentional, shot at his former team.

"I think it was a misplay on (Andrus') part to not charge that ball and Cruz has one of the best arms in the league and he ran right in his face and scored," Wilson said. "The thing with Texas is they have a lot of defensive talent, but they also make a lot of errors. Tonight that was really the story.

"Trout is so fast, if you hesitate he's going to beat it out."

The night before, Trout had driven in the winning runs after Ian Kinsler's error loaded the bases. It's a testament to the change in momentum in the AL West that the Angels are suddenly winning close games, while the Rangers are suddenly fumbling them away. Trout has been the key figure in the changing dynamic. He has extra-base hits in five straight games and is riding a seven-game hitting streak, best in his career.

"The way our team is playing, if you give us a little bit of daylight we've been squeezing through lately," Wilson said. "Earlier in the season, that wasn't happening."

Earlier in the season, they were teetering on irrelevant in this division, nine games back at the end of April. Then they started creeping up and now they're in full-fledged pursuit of their prey, 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers with one game left in this series. And when Texas looks back, who do you think they see? Hint: It's a fish and a pretty swift one at that.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Howie Kendrick
BA HR RBI R
.291 7 71 84
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 34
RBIM. Trout 107
RM. Trout 109
OPSM. Trout .940
WJ. Weaver 17
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOG. Richards 164