Mike Trout’s jumps in center field are among the worst in baseball this season according to Statcast analytics that gauge how quickly outfielders move toward balls, a tidbit that escaped Angels reliever Ty Buttrey in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game in the Oakland Coliseum.
Summoned to protect a one-run lead for a team that had lost eight of nine games, Buttrey threw a full-count fastball to Matt Olson, the Athletics' No. 3 hitter who laced a line drive toward left-center field to lead off the inning. The last thing Buttrey thought was that the ball would drop.
“He put a good swing on it, kind of had that little tailing [action], that drift to it,” Buttrey said. “You turn around and you see Mike out there and you're like, ‘OK, well, something cool is gonna happen.’ And, of course, he dove for it and got it. Saved a hit. Saved a double.”
It wasn’t the most spectacular catch in a career filled with home-run-robbing leaps, but it was well-timed, keeping the potential tying run off base in an eventual 4-3 Angels victory.
Trout also drove in three runs, two on a two-out double in the second, Matt Andriese threw 2 1/3 hitless innings in relief of starter Griffin Canning, and Buttrey needed only 19 pitches to record a six-out save on a day the Angels (9-19) hoped to build momentum.
“It means a lot when you’re struggling like we were,” Buttrey said. “We had really great at-bats, timely hitting, good pitching. I mean, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what I feel like this team can do.”
The Angels took advantage of two errors — one by two-time Gold Glove Award-winning A’s third baseman Matt Chapman — and another defensive misplay to build a 4-0 lead in the second.
David Fletcher doubled and scored in the first on Trout’s fielder’s-choice grounder, and he drove in a run in the second when Chapman bobbled his potential inning-ending double-play grounder for an error.
Trout followed with a 111-mph rocket that was low enough for shortstop Marcus Semien to jump for and hard enough to reach the wall for a two-run double.
“That thing was scalded,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Trout’s hit. “It was absolutely mangled.”
Oakland chipped away with Tony Kemp’s RBI double in the second, Chapman’s solo homer in the fourth and Olson’s RBI double in the fifth. Andriese replaced Canning and walked Chapman on a full-count breaking ball in the dirt, refusing to let Oakland's most dangerous hitter beat him.
Andriese, who entered with a 7.47 earned-run average in six games, struck out Mark Canha with a 93-mph fastball to end the inning and retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh.
“Everybody's gonna get their platitudes, but he's the guy that really put us in position to win that game,” Maddon said of Andriese. “He got us through that moment and held it down to get to Ty. Andriese made the whole thing work.”
So did Trout’s play, which changed the complexion of the eighth. Trout was shading the left-handed-hitting Olson toward right-center. The ball was tailing toward left-center.
“The moment it’s hit, you knew he had to time it perfectly to catch it,” Maddon said. “I thought the dive itself … you watch how low he dives, how he sets himself up more on a lower plane and stays on it in order to really extend and get to that ball. He couldn’t have done it any better.”
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Trout doesn’t dive often, which is fine with the Angels, who prefer he not risk an injury that would take his valuable bat out of the lineup. Trout had to make a split-second decision Saturday: Pull up and let the ball drop for a single or dive and risk the ball possibly bouncing past him for a double.
Trout didn’t think twice. He took to the air.
“Off the bat, I thought I got a good jump,” Trout said. “Obviously, I can’t let that ball get behind me. I got a good read on it and made the catch.”
Learning the hard way
Andrelton Simmons has had more than enough time to reflect on his ill-advised lunges for the first base bag, attempts to beat out infield hits that resulted in left-ankle sprains that sidelined him for a month in 2019 and another four weeks this season.
The shortstop, injured in a season-opening series in Oakland, returned Friday night but was not in the lineup Saturday, part of Maddon’s plan to ease Simmons back into a full-time role.
“You’ve got to make adjustments, I guess,” Simmons said. “I can't be doing that lunge now, for sure. Ideally, I won't have to do it ever, but I mean, in the heat of the game you do something out of desperation. … Just trying to run through [the bag] and if worse comes to worse, dive head-first.
“I know that's also not ideal, but that's the thing, in the heat of the game, you're trying to win. You kind of let go of caution a little bit. … But until you learn the lesson, you're gonna keep repeating it. So I'm hoping I learned my lesson by now.”
Three takeaways on the Angels
— The Angels scored their first run in the first inning on what critics of former manager Mike Scioscia would call “the dreaded contact play.” David Fletcher bolted from third on Mike Trout’s one-out grounder to third baseman Matt Chapman, whose throw home was wide and in the dirt, giving Fletcher just enough time to slide in for a 1-0 lead.
— Griffin Canning failed to notch his first victory of the season, but Saturday’s start, in which he gave up three earned runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings, was still an improvement over his previous two games, when he yielded seven earned runs in 8 2/3 innings.
— Anthony Rendon is not the reason the offense has struggled of late. The third baseman extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a fifth-inning single to center and is batting .489 (23 for 47) over his last 11 games.
DiGiovanna reported from Los Angeles.