Call it the price of greatness if you wish, but when Mike Trout slides into an 0-26 slump, as he did a few weeks go, he tends to get more attention than some slapdick corner infielder who can’t buy a hit would. When that 0-26 slump also happens to coincide with a 14-game losing streak, it might even lead to some pointed questions being asked. Specifically, Really, are the goddamn Angels gonna do this again? and Uhh, is Mike Trout OK?
The first question remains unresolved for now (yes, the Angels probably going to do this again), but Trout himself provided an emphatic answer to the second question this weekend. He’s fine. Better than fine, actually. He’s still great. Trout wrapped up a five-game series against the Mariners on Sunday by hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning. The day before that, he homered in both games of a double header. And on Thursday, during the first game of the series, Trout went deep twice.
If you were subconsciously counting up dingers with your fingers while reading the previous few sentences, feel free to look down at your hand now and confirm that, yes, Trout smacked five damn dongs in five games this weekend. And because Trout can hardly ever sneeze without doing something that has rarely, if ever, happened in baseball history, this outburst of dinger mania comes with its own narrow slice of historical significance. According to MLB.com, Trout is the first player in AL/NL history to hit four game-winning home runs in a single series. That one will look great on the mantle.
Given the Angels’ current predicament, it’s the game-winning nature of Trout’s homers that carry the most meaning. They managed to snap a 14-game winning streak on June 9 (no thanks to Nickelback), but then went right ahead and lost five out of the next seven. But they took four out of five from the Mariners, and Sunday’s victory gave them a three-game winning streak. If they can kick off their series against the Royals with a win tonight, they’ll have their longest winning streak since the end of May. They’ll certainly be looking forward to the Mariners coming to California for a three-game set next weekend, and not just because Trout just finished beating the crap out of them. He always beats the crap out of them. Trout has a 1.097 career OPS against Seattle, and the 52 homers he’s bashed while facing them are tied with Rafael Palmeiro’s mark for the most hit against them by a single player.
The Angels are now 33-36, and Trout’s numbers are once again starting to resolve into those belonging to a presumptive MVP. He’s got 21 homers and is hitting .290/.398/.659, and by the time September rolls around nobody is going to remember that weird stretch at the end of May when he didn’t get a hit in 26 at-bats. All of this leaves both Trout and the Angels standing on familiar ground, of course. Trout can go on hitting a bushel of homers and setting some weird record you’d never before considered every weekend, as he’s done for his entire career, but it won’t mean much unless the Angels actually manage to win the games he is so keen to carry them through. Three games below .500 on June 20 isn’t the worst place for a team that just lost 14 in a row to find itself, but they are 9.5 games off the division lead and the season isn’t getting any longer.