CLEVELAND -- Mike Trout left his speed in the tool box, as he has for much of the season, but the center fielder showed some serious power in the Los Angeles Angels' 9-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.
Trout capped an eight-pitch at-bat by muscling an opposite-field, three-run home run to right field in a decisive four-run fifth inning, and he wowed his teammates by crushing a 422-foot shot to center field on a low-and-inside Mark Lowe fastball in the seventh for his second career multi-home run game.
"He's the best player I've ever seen, flat-out," Angels catcher Hank Conger said. "He's got the fastest hands west of the Mississippi. It's ridiculous. It's unbelievable. It's so effortless. Seriously, how do I do that? Why does it look so easy for him?"
It's not that easy, of course. Trout has been locked in for 22 games, hitting .410 (34 for 83) with eight home runs and 26 runs batted in, and is batting .311 with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs this season.
But Trout led the American League in strikeouts for most of April and May and endured a 19-game stretch from April 29 to May 19 in which he hit .164 (11 for 67) with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
"I was just anxious, trying to do too much," Trout said. "When I try to hit the ball extremely hard, I don't get my (front) foot down. I don't recognize pitches. That's why I think my strikeouts are up, because I'm late getting my foot down. Once you get it down, you recognize pitches more, and it gives you time to react.
"It's tough, because you tell yourself to calm down, but with the adrenaline running ... it's Major League Baseball, and you want to get a hit every time. But that sometimes gets you in trouble."
Manager Mike Scioscia said that even during the slump, Trout was "doing a lot of different things to help us win games," but Trout has left one lethal weapon, his speed, holstered for most of the season.
In fact, when Trout stole second base and third base in the third inning Monday, it was a reminder not so much of how fast he is, but of how little he has used his speed.
Trout has nine stolen bases in nine tries, a pace for 21 stolen bases in 162 games. He had an AL-high 49 stolen bases in 139 games as a rookie in 2012, when he led the league with 129 runs, and 33 stolen bases in 157 games last season, when he scored 109 runs. Trout has 47 runs this season, a pace for 108.
"Every chance I get I'm going to try to go, but the pitchers have been quick to the plate," Trout said. "I'm not just going to run into an out. I have to choose my spots."
Some assume Trout is not running as much because he's usually on first base when Albert Pujols is at-bat, and if he steals, opponents will be more likely to pitch around Pujols or walk him intentionally.
Another assumption is that the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Trout, the player the Angels could least afford to lose, does not want to risk injury by being too aggressive on the bases.
Neither is true, Trout and Scioscia said.
"With Mike, you want to open him up a little bit when he gets the opportunity," Scioscia said. "But I don't know if I can count on one hand the times he's been on first and a pitcher has been over 1.2 seconds (delivering the ball) to the plate. That's what we're running into, so you need to pick your spots."
The Angels also factor in the time it takes for a ball to go from a catcher's mitt to the tag at second base, with the average being just below two seconds, catcher Chris Iannetta said. They add that to the pitcher's time to the plate and weigh that against a player's speed to determine when to run.
"Mike has a long leash to run, and he's smart about it," Scioscia said. "We're going to push the action, and Mike has been good at picking times when he can or can't go."
Trout sat out three games in late May and early June because of middle-back stiffness, but said that hasn't been a factor in his caution on the bases.
"I feel good, I feel healthy," he said. "Every chance I get, I'm going to go."
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