HOUSTON -- On a night his teammates shut down with runners in scoring position and lost 5-4 to the Houston Astros, Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun stood out Friday at Minute Maid Park.
Calhoun went four for four with two extra-base hits. He assembled his first four-hit game since Apr. 21, 2015, and slammed a lead-off home run in the eighth inning to bring the Angels within one run of a tie.
The solo shot just barely got enough lift to fly over the right-center field fence. But Calhoun put a hard enough swing on the pitch from Houston's Hector Rondon that the ball jumped off the bat at 106.1 mph -- the third-hardest hit ball of the night.
The home run capped one of his best performances of the season, and underscored the strides the 31-year-old has made in the last year.
Calhoun had the worst season of his career in 2018, batting .208 with an equally miserable .652 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He over-exerted himself trying to fix his swing and landed on the injured list because of an oblique strain.
While hurt, he turned to then-minor league hitting coordinators Jeremy Reed and Shawn Wooten. Reed and Wooten, now on the major league staff, helped him rediscover a stance that had worked for him in the past. Their teachings put him on track to post a 1.018 OPS in 35 games before fizzling out the rest of the season.
Calhoun has built off those lessons this year. His .802 OPS is only 10 percentage points below league-average. He has belted a career-high 28 home runs.
"Every day you're going out there and trying to put a good product on the field," Calhoun said. "Go out and compete and today the plan went well, I swung the bat well and put the balls in play that should be put in play. I got good results."
If he carries this level of production through the end of the season, the Angels will have a tough choice to make regarding Calhoun's future: Pick up the $14-million option on his contract and keep him as their starting right fielder in 2020, or exercise a $1-million buyout and release him. Before this resurgence, the latter seemed like a foregone conclusion.
"I came a long way, that's for sure," Calhoun said.