Mike Trout watched as a low sinker grazed the outside corner of the strike zone in the third inning Sunday, rung up once again in a weekend filled with strikeouts.
Before trudging back to the dugout he made a face that seemed to scream: Yikes!
The Angels star went 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts in a three-game series and Los Angeles hitters fanned 20 times overall Sunday as the Houston Astros won 4-2 for a sweep.
“Mike Trout is a future Hall of Famer. He’s going to come around,” Angels acting interim manager Bill Haselman said. “It’s too long of a season never to have struggles. And everybody goes through it, even the best in the game. And he’s going through it right now and we’re confident he’ll get out of it.”
Rookie Jeremy Pena homered twice, capped by a two-run drive with two outs in the ninth inning off Ryan Tepera (1-2) to win it.
Trout struck out seven straight times in the first two games. In the finale, the three-time AL MVP reached base in his first at-bat on an error by Pena at shortstop before striking out looking in his next two plate appearances.
Trout popped out in his last at-bat to extend his skid to 0 for 14.
“This guy, when he’s on he’s like a one-man wrecking crew,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “We did pitch him tough and I’m sure that he’s going to make the adjustment when we go out there very soon.”
Trout is having another strong season, batting .272 with 23 homers and 47 RBIs, despite his second long slump of the year – he was a career-worst 0 for 26 before ending that drought on June 6.
Trout was far from the only Angel to struggle at the plate as Houston starter Framber Valdez and three relievers tied the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Twelve different Angels batters came to the plate and all of them struck out at least once.
“Guys are working on it, but it’s really it’s really tough when you see so many of them going through it at once,” hitting coach Jeremy Reed said. “Usually it’s a guy here, a guy there and the next guy picks him up. But there’s just a lot of guys struggling at the same time.”
Valdez struck out a career-high 13 in six innings, allowing two runs on three hits and five walks. Relievers Hector Neris and Rafael Montero each struck two in a scoreless inning and Ryan Pressly (2-2) fanned three in the ninth.
There had been several occasions where teams struck out 20, including performances by Max Scherzer, Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood. The Astros’ previous record was 18 in 1964 against Cincinnati.
Houston pitchers fanned 47 in the series against the Angels.
Pena had four hits. In the ninth, Jose Altuve singled with two outs and Pena followed with his 11th home run.
Pena hit a solo home run in the fourth off Jose Suarez.
Luis Rengifo homered in the Angels second. Shohei Ohtani hit an RBI single in the third.
Altuve had an RBI single in the fifth that made it 2-all.
Haselman, the team’s catching coach, was the Angels’ acting interim manager Sunday while Ray Montgomery, who has been the acting interim manager, and interim manager Phil Nevin served their suspensions for last week’s bench-clearing brawl with the Mariners. Haselman will also manage Tuesday’s game while Montgomery serves the second game of his suspension.
Sunday was the sixth game of Nevin’s 10-game suspension.
Astros: LHP Parker Mushinski (elbow discomfort) threw live batting practice Sunday. Manager Dusty Baker said he felt good after throwing 24 pitches, but they haven’t yet determined what the next step is for him.
The Angels selected the contract of 2B Michael Stefanic from Triple-A Salt Lake and designated INF/OF Tyler Wade for assignment. Stefanic went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts in his major league debut before being replaced by Andrew Velazquez in the bottom of the sixth inning.