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Mike Trout Can’t Help The Angels, But At Least They Can’t Make Him Worse

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 12: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels hits a two-run homer during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on September 12, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Mike Trout will be a first ballot Hall of Famer because he does two things better than any contemporary baseball player.

He goes on ungodly tears like the current one, in which he has hit home runs in seven consecutive games, one short of the major-league record. But more amazingly if you think of it a second, he manages to do things like this in an extraordinary and seemingly impenetrable vacuum without either affecting the work of the team with which he plays, or is affected by it. He is a Los Angeles Angel, and like his brother from another passport Shohei Ohtani, he can neither improve nor be deflated by his surroundings.

His seventh home run, hit last night off Cleveland’s gloriously named Konnor Pilkington on a first-pitch fastball down in the zone, tied the game at four, which was just enough to help them eventually lose by one. The Angels are 3-4 during Trout’s streak, which neither condemns him for not making them better nor rewards them for not making him worse. They are ships docked together who also somehow manage to pass in the night, night after night, year after year.

So you take Trout as you take Ohtani: as magnificent individual players who are like luminescent moons orbiting an abandoned mining planet. And when we say “abandoned,” we mean even by the mine operator, Arte Moreno, who wants to dump the whole thing on some unsuspecting sucker … err, interested buyer who sees opportunity where Moreno sees a third-place tie 30 games out.

Fortunately you as a baseball fan, or maybe not as a baseball fan but as a casual bystander, can figure out that homers in seven consecutive games is a thing, even though Joey Votto did it just last year. Indeed, according to the estimable Sarah Langs, only eight other players have ever done it going back to 1956, including such luminaries as Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey The Younger, and Kevin Mench.

Trout is in such a place that he doesn’t need to see a lot of pitches to hurt the one he likes best. His seven homers have come on pitches four, four, one, five, two, two, and one—19 to hit seven. Batting practices last longer. The homers have also come from pitches all over the strike zone—top middle, down and away, down and away, thigh-high middle, up and away, middle in, and low middle. None of them happened in a true hitter’s count; only the first homer, off the redoubtable Brandon Bielak, came with him ahead in the count, and four of them came either on the first pitch or with an 0-1 count. It all seems so see-ball-hit-ball, the kind that only the elitist of elite hitters do, and the only tangible advantage Trout has is that he hits ahead of Ohtani in the Angels’ otherwise bereft order.

So you may watch tonight’s Angels-Guardians game unfettered by concerns for whatever else you might miss. The Champions League matches will all be over, Game 2 of the WNBA Finals happens afterward, there is no college or high school football to bet on, and only Game 2 of the Jays-Rays doubleheader could impact your choice. Moreover, while the Guards are locked in a primordial struggle with the White Sox to see who wins the Central, the Angels are deeply and profoundly out of it; 18 games behind Tampa for the final wild card spot, and with 21 games left, Trout and Ohtani would have to homer in each of their remaining 84 plate appearances for them to avoid elimination another week.

In short, you have nothing better to do; first pitch is 6:07 ET, the first potential victim is rookie Cody Morris, who has never faced Trout, and in case of a close game, you may get the added treat of watching Trout face the meganasty Emmanuel Clase with the game on the line. Watch this, just because you should be able to reach your deathbed saying in that theatrically croaky whisper, “I once spent three hours watching Mike Trout, AND the Angels.”

And here, because most of us love you (though I, to be truthful, am utterly indifferent to you, and rest assured that’s giving you all the best of it) are the seven, off Bielak, Tyler Alexander, Eduardo Rodriguez, Will Vest, Lance McCullers, Jose Urquidy and Pilkington. Enjoy, with a glass something icy, clear, brown, red, frothy, or all.