No active player has been more successful against the Mariners than the Angels' Mike Trout. Which gives Mariners manager Scott Servais a difficult decision to make several times a game.
To pitch or not to pitch to Mike Trout?
It’s not so much a question with an exact answer. It’s more of a philosophical debate that is perfect for sports bars, sportstalk radio, social media and the seats of Safeco Field.
For manager Scott Servais, it’s a Maalox-inducing decision each time the best player in the league steps to the plate.
“It’s not easy, believe me,” Servais said. “I’m sitting in the dugout and my stomach is turning. I’m constantly looking at my lineup card and it seems like this guy hits every inning against us.
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No active player has tormented or dominated the Mariners more than Trout, which makes playing 19 games against the Angels every season rather un-enjoyable for the Mariners and their fans.
This season, Trout is hitting .571 (16 for 28) with a 1.968 on-base plus slugging percentage, four doubles, a triple, five homers and nine RBIs in seven games against Seattle. In 125 career games vs. the Mariners, he’s hitting. 317 (143 for 451) with a 1.023 OPS, 22 doubles, nine triples, 31 homers and 82 RBIs.
“Before last series, we thought we’d come up with a plan to attack him,” Servais said on Tuesday before the current series started. “It didn’t work, obviously. So that plan was not thrown out again. I did notice that the sheet that the pitching guys put together on each hitter, Mike Trout has just one line while other guys have a paragraph in how we want to approach him.”
Many fans want the Mariners to walk Trout every time he steps to the plate. Servais has a different philosophy.
“The situation dictates itself,” he said. “You have to be very cognizant of the game situation, the score of the game, who is on the mound. I think if I remember back last series. There was a particular game where we were up three or four runs and there was a guy on a base and base open. And we pitched to Mike Trout and he hit a homer. The score was within three runs and now it’s a one run game. Everyone was like, why would you ever pitch to him?”
That game was on June 12. Trout’s homer did cut the lead to 4-3 with a two-run blast off of Ryan Cook, but the Mariners retired Justin Upton — the next batter — and went on to win the game, 6-3.
“My reason was Mike Trout had to hit a homer and the next guy would have to hit a homer for the score to be tied vs. walking him where only one guy has to hit a homer to tie the game,” Servais said. “Certainly the guy behind him is a good player, but not the caliber that Mike Trout is at.”
Trout came into Wednesday hitting .310 with a 1.080 OPS, 16 doubles, three triples 24 homers and 49 RBI on the season. But he’s been scuffling of late. Trout is hitting just .171 (7 for 41) with one homer and three RBI in his last 13 games. Teams have walked him 13 times along with three intentional walks.
“He seems to be going pretty good this year, certainly against us,” Servais said. “You watch other games and you see other guys getting him out and make the pitch. Our guys seem to make that pitch or make a pitch close to that spot and it doesn’t end up with the same result.”
In Tuesday night’s 4-1 win, Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc retired Trout in his first three plate appearances. But Trout never had much of a fourth plate appearance. With two outs and Kole Calhoun on third base, Servais wasn’t going to jeopardize a 3-1 lead at the time and pitch to Trout. He signaled for the intentional walk before Trout could even tighten his batters’ gloves and step in the batter’s box.
“I did choose to walk Mike Trout there,” Servais said after the game. “It may have been an unconventional time, but I said it before the game and I will say it after the game. He’s a great player and he’s having a great season. They have a lot good players on that team, but not at the level of Mike Trout. So we are going to take our chances with some other guys.”
Trout’s numbers vs. the Mariners for his career