ANAHEIM: For all the gaps in payroll, TV exposure and farm-system raves, maybe the Angels and Dodgers might not be that different after all.
Both are dependent on their generational talents (Mike Trout in Anaheim, Clayton Kershaw up the road in Los Angeles). Both have pitching staffs with thin spots as obvious as those on a balding man. And both could have long relationships with a .500 record this summer.
The Angels beat the Dodgers again Thursday night (Friday in Manila), 7-4, to take three of four in the interleague meeting and have now won six of seven since a winless homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals.
Trout drove in three of the runs, once by beating out the back end of a potential inning-ending double play, scored twice, hit his 10th home run of the season, stole a base and continued to be, you know, Mike Trout.
“You look at his numbers every year. They’re off the charts,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But when you see him every day—beat out a double-play ball and get an RBI, you see him steal a base, you see the plays he makes in center field.
“His talent shows up regularly every night on the field, whether it’s his legs, his arm, at the plate in the batter’s box or on the basepaths. Mike’s always doing things that are helping us win.”
The Dodgers, meanwhile, could only pitch Kershaw once in the series. His masterful performance Tuesday was their only victory in the four games as his team slumped back to .500 (21-21) for the sixth time in the month of May. More disturbingly for the Dodgers, this is becoming the strongest strain running through their season. They once again looked like the sub-.500 team they have been whenever Kershaw doesn’t pitch (13-20).
Like the heartthrob paired with a cranky veteran in a buddy cop movie, Trout and Albert Pujols combined to go 13 for 29 (.448) with two doubles, two home runs (both by Trout), seven walks, 10 RBI and eight runs scored in the series. The only time they were held in check was Kershaw’s start, when Pujols had the duo’s only hit. Trout scored at least one run in each of the other games.
“I played with them and they’re great guys, great competitors,” Dodgers infielder Howie Kendrick said. “They were the guys who happened to beat us. I wish it wasn’t that way. But they’re big guys in this league for a reason.”
No Dodgers starter other than Kershaw even completed five innings in the Freeway Series. The unexpectedly potent Angels lineup battered Kenta Maeda, Mike Bolsinger and Ross Stripling for 12 runs on 19 hits in their combined 13 innings.
“It’s tough on a team. It’s tough on a ’pen and it’s tough to sustain winning ballgames,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the short starts. “When you’ve got to cover four-plus innings every night, it’s tough.”
Stripling held it together into the fifth inning, allowing an RBI single and a solo home run to Trout but taking a 4-2 lead into the fifth thanks to the Dodgers’ success against a familiar face, former Colorado Rockie Jhoulys Chacin. Kendrick had a two-run triple and Chase Utley scored three times in the first five innings against Chacin, who didn’t make it through five either.
Stripling’s trouble started there, with a leadoff single by Gregorio Petit and back-to-back one-out walks to Kole Calhoun and Trout, loading the bases for Pujols. Stripling got Pujols on a called strike three—a call that Pujols disputed —but then hit C.J. Cron with an 0-and-1 fastball, forcing in a run.
Cron was the first batter Stripling has hit with a pitch in 278 innings as a professional.
“Just another frustrating game,” Stripling said. “It seems like I was always battling, couldn’t get the first guy out in an inning. I felt like I was always pitching from the stretch.
“Another outing where the best player hurt me. Matt Kemp got me. [Giancarlo] Stanton and now Trout tonight. I’ve got to find a way to get through the lineup more than twice and keep the big guys from hurting me.”
Stripling was done after the Cron pitch. But going to the bullpen has only rarely led to good things for Roberts.
Thursday was not one of those nights.
Chris Hatcher gave up a two-run single to the first batter he faced, Johnny Giavotella, and a leadoff home run to Carlos Perez in the sixth inning followed by a Petit double. Petit eventually scored on a Trout forceout, his third RBI of the night.
In stark contrast, the Angels’ bullpen rolled through the Dodgers’ lineup. Four relievers combined on 4-2/3 hitless innings – thanks in part to Rafael Ortega’s diving catch along the left-field line in the ninth.