With the upcoming changes to the Major League Baseball schedule for the 2023 season, where every team will play at least one series against every other team in baseball, teams are expected to lose six games — one home and one road series — against their division rivals.
On the positive side for the Mariners, it means six fewer games facing the perennial MVP that is Angels center fielder Mike Trout and having him pummel their pitching staff like no other baseball player — past or current — has done in the franchise’s existence.
Of course, they still have 14 more games left against him this season.
How much further damage can he do?
On Sunday, Trout capped one of the most dominant hitting performances in recent history, smashing a two-run homer — his fifth of the five-game series — to lead the Angels to a 4-0 win.
The Angels won four of five games in the series with four of Trout’s homers being considered “game-winning” homers because they proved to be the difference in the game. His two-run homer in the fourth inning off Mariners starter Logan Gilbert on Sunday proved to be the game-winner since Seattle failed to score.
In the Angels’ four wins over Seattle, Trout drove in a total of nine runs with his five homers while the Mariners scored a total of three runs.
He now has 52 homers in 172 games and 747 career plate appearances against the Mariners. It ties him with Rafael Palmeiro for the most homers by an opposing player in franchise history. Palmeiro played in 216 games and had 917 plate career plate appearances vs. Seattle.
Trout now has 33 homers at T-Mobile Park in 88 games. He moved past Mike Cameron, who hit 30 homers in 310 games, and Ken Griffey Jr., who had 29 homers in 116 games in the stadium.
After firing a 96-mph fastball on Trout’s hands to get a ground ball to third base for a first-inning double play, Gilbert found himself in a lengthy battle with him in the fourth inning with Taylor Ward on first base and no outs.
After a first-pitch ball up and in, Gilbert got ahead 1-2 when Trout swung through a 96-mph fastball in the middle and watched a 95-mph fastball get called a strike on the outside corner.
Gilbert stayed with the fastball as Trout fouled off 97-mph and 96-mph pitches. Trout pushed the count full when he wouldn’t chase two elevated fastballs out of the strike zone.
Trout fouled off another fastball on the outside corner, spoiling a strikeout. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Gilbert fired his ninth fastball. It was supposed to be up at the top of the zone. It was in the middle. Trout crushed it over the fence in right-center.
“I was getting a couple of pitches to hit before that, but I was just missing them,” Trout said.
Gilbert believes he would’ve kept missing if the pitch went where it was intended.
“If we execute the pitch up, I think we might get him there,” Gilbert said. “But we’re just trying different sequences after seeing what he did the previous couple games, so it’s always gonna be tough. It just comes down to executing your pitches.”
Throwing Trout nine straight fastballs isn’t a typical sequence for most pitchers.
“You can go up and throw whatever you want to throw, when he’s locked in like that, usually in four or five at-bats, he’s going to get into one,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said.
While there is much consternation from the Mariners fan base to intentionally walk every time he comes to the plate or even when he gets into the on-deck circle, the logical side of baseball isn’t going to do that, no matter how much success he’s had against the Mariners.
It was the fourth inning of a 0-0 game and Gilbert arguably has the best stuff of anyone on the staff. Manager Scott Servais wanted to see his young starter battle with Trout.
“Logan Gilbert is not going to back down from anybody,” Servais said. “He shouldn’t. He’s a tremendous talent. He’s got a ton of confidence. It doesn’t matter who’s in the box. He’s gonna go after him. He’s got four quality pitches. He went after Trout, he challenged him with the fastball to get the double play the first time up. And he went after him with the fastball again, but you’ve got to get a fastball in the right part of the strike zone. He didn’t. He left it out over the plate. And Mike Trout is the hottest man walking right now. Everything he hits, seems to go over the fence.”
The ultra-intense Gilbert wouldn’t consider giving in to Trout in that situation. He wants to beat him. He believes he can beat him.
“We try to treat it like any other at-bat,” he said. “I mean, he’s really good, but there’s a lot of really good players in this league. That’s what the league is made up of. So I don’t really shy away from anybody. I’m just gonna go right after them.”
It’s that mentality that the Mariners believe has made Gilbert their best starter this season. He is aggressive and competitive with a bit of a nasty streak.
“You’re in the big leagues,” Servais said. “Logan is one of the top 10 pitchers in this league right now. And I think his numbers probably back it up. He’s gonna go right after him. But you’ve got to execute. And when you don’t execute and don’t get the ball where it needs to be, then you pay the price. Logan didn’t back off and he came right back after him [in the next at-bat] and got him out.”