Yesterday was supposed to be today; what I mean is that yesterday's series opener against Seattle was supposed to be the dreaded Felix Hernandez Game. But with an illness setting the Mariners' ace behind a bit, the Halos got to face Hisashi Iwakuma instead. That did not go so well, which also meant the one-two K.O. combo of deadly starting pitchers was right there for Seattle's taking. The Angels decided not to go down so easy tonight...or more importantly, Mike Trout said "nah, Mariners". Not to mention the Angels had a Hector Santiago-sized trick up their sleeve, as well.
Hector once again looked great out there on the bump for the Halos, keeping pace with his vaunted counterpart, King Felix. Through six innings pitched, he continued his recent trend of putting a little extra hot sauce on his fastball, getting around the 95mph mark and striking out seven batters. He would also give up two runs, both earned, but one was from a wimpy sac fly, and the other was from the requisite Nelson Cruz solo blast. Outside of that, Santiago was legit, using his newly found velocity in concert with his pinpoint accuracy to annoy the Mariners.
Felix Hernandez wasn't too shabby at all, however, but that's sort of what we expected going in. It was textbook Hernandez, which meant an efficient shellacking for the majority of tonight's lineup. Luckily for the Angels, they had a couple King Felix specialists: Mike Trout and Cliff Pennington.
When the Angels were down 1-0 early, Cliff Pennington hit a no-doubter to the right field stands, tying up the game and injecting some celebratory vibes into the Big A. This is a guy who came into today's game batting .310 against Hernandez, so we shouldn't be surprised. He also became the first second baseman since 2013 to hit a homer off of Hernandez. Great contribution from the veteran Pennington, and nice move from Mike Scioscia for plugging him in there tonight.
While Cliff Pennington is pretty effective against Felix Hernandez, Mike Trout is an absolute destroyer of Felix Hernandez; a master of AL West regicide. In the bottom of the sixth, with the Angels down 2-1 and Rafael Ortega on first from a single, Mike Trout dug in and ripped an 89mph sinker from King Felix into the center field batter's eye. The crowd went insane, and the Angels dugout was on fire.
With that, the Angels had a monumental 3-2 lead, all on the back of Mike Trout. After that bomb, he was the owner of a 3.68 career averages versus King Felix, including five homers and 15 RBI. He's got the man's number and he's not afraid to dial it up for no other reason than pure torment. Trout wasn't done saving the day, though. In the seventh, Adam Lind hit a long ball to center field. It wasn't going out of the park, but Trout wisely pulled up and got himself ready to catch it as it bounced off the wall. A quick barehanded catch and then an absolute rocket to second base, and boom...Lind was DOA.
Hernandez wouldn't come out in the eighth, for his evening was over. It was now a bullpen vs bullpen game, Seattle needed just one run. The Angels have already been dashed in similar circumstances this year, so the feeling in the air was one of intense anticipation. Greg Mahle was tasked with getting a couple outs in the seventh, and he did exactly that. Joe Smith came on in the eighth, and it was a perfectly fine appearance. The bullpen was doing their job, and then I think to myself "what a wonderful world".
The Angels still had some excess energies in them in the bottom of the eighth, when Rafael Ortega got on base with a single, and then a Mike Trout walk, Kole Calhoun decided that his team needed an insurance run. Calhoun dropped in a nice bloop single to left center, scoring Ortega from second and the Angels had set the 4-2 stage for Huston Street in the ninth. Like a man on a mission, Street came in and completed the task as it was assigned, putting down the Mariners and lighting the Halo up.
Ballgame, Angels. How about that? Get shredded in the Iwakuma game, and then walk away from King Felix game with the W?
Mike Trout continues to wake up. That is the main takeaway from this game, because this team is Mike Trout. Now, there were plenty other bright spots, like Santiago's stat line or Ji-Man Choi getting his first MLB hit or Ortega having a nice, multi-hit night. But Mike Trout had been heating up but in this game, he went full supernova. That's what this team needs more than anything at this moment, and when you get a glimpse, your eyes are burned out...in a good way.