The Los Angeles Angels let out 24 straight innings of scoreless frustration on the Texas Rangers on Monday night in a 15-8 rout that very well could be a turning point in the race for the American League West. In the process, Kendrys Morales became only the third player in MLB history to hit a home run from each side of the plate in one inning during the Angels' nine-run sixth.
Entering their biggest series of the season -- with four games in Arlington that could make or break their year -- few outside the Angels' clubhouse had much confidence in their offense after back-to-back shutouts at home versus the Tampa Bay Rays. It didn’t take long to shatter those concerns with three runs in the first three innings and a nine-run sixth inning that not only broke open the game but might have given this struggling Angels team new life. They now are just four games behind the Rangers with three games left in their crucial series in Arlington.
MVP Trout. A day after Mike Trout sat out Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays with a left knee contusion, he returned to the lineup Monday night and picked up right where he left off. Trout hit an opposite field, two-run home run to give the Angels a 3-2 lead in the third inning when Roy Oswalt tried to go inside on him. Trout then hit a two-run single to center to score Maicer Izturis and Peter Bourjos, giving the Angels an 8-3 lead in the sixth inning.
Trout, who was 2-for-5 Monday with four RBIs and three runs, is first in the AL in batting average, stolen bases and runs, and third in OBP and slugging percentage. Trout currently is on pace to bat .350 with 28 home runs and 54 stolen bases. No player in MLB history has hit .340 with at least 20 homers and 40 stolen bases. What’s more remarkable is that Trout didn’t begin the season until April 28, essentially giving everyone else a 20-game head start before he was called up to help turn around the Angels' season. Trout’s uncanny ability to quickly adjust is easily noticeable when you break down his batting averages. He is batting just less than .300 in his first at-bat but is batting more than .400 in his second, third and fourth at-bats.
Switching it up. When Kendrys Morales hit a two-run homer to right to score Albert Pujols in the sixth inning, the Angels were just happy to have the lead again. No one could have imagined it would be the beginning of a nine-run sixth inning for the Angels, which would see Morales become only the second Angels player and first since Rick Reichardt in April 30, 1966, to hit two home runs in a single inning. But the achievement in no way stops there: Morales become just the third player ever to switch-hit home runs in the same inning. Morales’ second homer was a grand slam, which gave him 6 RBIs in the inning. It was the most RBIs in one inning for a player since Juan Uribe also had six for the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 23, 2010 against the Chicago Cubs.
Settling Santana. It wasn’t a stellar outing, but judging it against recent Ervin Santana starts, it was a solid one for the inconsistent right-hander. Angels manager Mike Scioscia had a 15-out “limit” for Santana against the Rangers, and few thought Santana would last that long. After all, we are talking about the same guy who gave up a combined 14 runs in three innings of work in two of his past three starts. Santana, however, settled himself Monday and pitched five innings, giving up four hits and three runs and striking out three. Again, it wasn’t an amazing start by normal standards, but it was a major improvement for Santana, who got a much-needed win.
Drought ends, Part 1. Going into the game, the Rangers were 0-for-their-previous-29 with runners in scoring position. It was their longest drought since April 1988, when they went 0-for-35. That was before David Murphy doubled to deep left to score Josh Hamilton to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Although the run stopped the drought, it was the last time the Rangers would lead in the game.
Drought ends, Part 2. Hamilton had been in a two-month slump that was so bad he recently was booed at home. Hamilton wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with him, and neither was Rangers manager Ron Washington, who dropped him to fifth in the lineup. Hamilton went into the game hitting .115 over his previous 17 games and .204 over his previous 56 games. After a torrid start to the season during which he was the AL player of the month in April and May, he hit .223 in June and just .141 in July. Hamilton, however, started the game with a double down the left-field line, then homered to left to tie the game at 3 in the fourth inning. It was his first multihit game since July 4. Hamilton finished the game going 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs and one RBI.
Trumbo out. For the second straight game, a member of the Angels’ vaunted “TNT” attack was missing, as Mark Trumbo was held out with a tweaked rib-cage muscle in his right side that he suffered Sunday. Trumbo apparently hurt himself during batting practice before Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay but played anyway. After he went hitless in three at-bats against the Rays, Scoscia held him out Monday. Trumbo, who is hitting .304 with a team-leading 27 home runs and 69 RBIs, likely will be back in the lineup Tuesday. In other injury news, it appears Dan Haren will not be able to make Wednesday night’s scheduled start against Texas due to tightness in his back. Haren recently returned from a lower-back injury that sent him to the disabled list July 4.