SEATTLE — Amid the chaos of Albert Pujols’ 3,000th career hit on Friday, a frenetic Seattle Mariners extra-innings comeback on Saturday, and Seattle’s introduction to Japanese hitter/pitcher sensation Shohei Ohtani on Sunday, Mike Trout did what he seemingly always does.
Feast on Mariner pitching.
Trout’s three hits, including a three-run home run to put Seattle away, illustrated just how threatening these Los Angeles Angels will be to the Mariners’ hopes of ending their 17-season playoff drought. He led the Angels to an 8-2 victory Sunday at Safeco Field.
In the three games, Trout was 9-for-14 (.643), with a home run, a triple, three doubles, three RBI and four runs scored as the Angels handed the Mariners just their second series loss of the season — both against AL West opponents.
“This division is tough,” said Seattle’s starting pitcher, Felix Hernandez, whose line of 52⁄3 innings with five runs and five strikeouts pushed his ERA to 5.28. “Toughest division in MLB.”
No division had more combined wins than the 90 in the American League West entering Sunday. The Houston Astros and Angels both have 21 wins.
“Very good division,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We’re going to play each other a lot and get to know each other a lot. Who can stay the healthiest and the most consistent is going to be standing at the end.”
And maybe who can survive Mike Trout.
Trout had three hits in each of the three games of the series. And when he wasn’t pummeling Seattle with his bat, he was chasing down long fly balls and throwing out Ben Gamel on the bases.
The Mariners’ offense didn’t have much an answer for their King.
Hernandez lacked pin-point command Sunday. No getting around that. The Angels hit him hard in the second inning. Zack Cozart rocked a slider well over the left-field wall for a solo home run. Chris Young, who entered the day batting .152, sent a middle-of-the-plate sinker over the wall for his second homer this season.
The Angels led 2-0.
“Two pitches I threw that were mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Hernandez said. “I can’t say anything.”
He labored, but it stayed 2-0 until he appeared to get through a 1-2-3 sixth inning with a strikeout. To do that without his best stuff should speak to his competitive drive.
But the strike-three pitch to Chris Young hit the dirt and got away from catcher Mike Zunino. That allowed Young to reach first base and the inning continued.
Former Mariner Rene Rivera followed with an RBI double, Ian Kinsler walked and Servais trotted out to pull Hernandez and bring in right-hander Chasen Bradford to face Trout.
Trout crushed a three-run home run — his 12th HR of the season — over the left-field wall.
So instead of six innings for Hernandez and a two-run deficit, he left after 5 2/3 innings and the Angels raced to a 6-0 lead.
The little things.
“Felix did not have his best stuff today but credit to him when he does not have his A-game to go out there and continue to compete and make adjustments,” Servais said. “You saw — it wasn’t really one pitch that wasn’t working for him. It was all in the first couple innings and then he started throwing some more changeups.
“He did his job keeping us right there. It was just the wild pitch strike three that snowballed.”
The 23-year-old Ohtani was about as-advertised. Kyle Seager had hits in his first two at-bats, joining the Astros’ George Springer as the only players with multiple hits against the rookie hitter/pitcher this season. But The Mariners never got a runner past second base.
No player had a hit on the 105 splitters Ohtani had thrown entering this game, according to Brooks Baseball. And no player had a hit off that pitch by the end of this one, either. Ohtani touched 99 mph on is fastball and don’t ask Nelson Cruz and Mitch Haniger about his filthy slider.
This was after Ohtani went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and reached base three times as a designated hitter in the Angels’ win Friday. His two-way prowess all season is something baseball hasn’t witnessed since George Herman Ruth played a century ago.
“I was doing that in Little League,” Hernandez said.
In the two games Ohtani played, the Angels outscored the Mariners, 13-2. He rested Saturday ahead of his Sunday start on the mound.
The Mariners didn’t get to him until the seventh inning, when Ryon Healy hit his fifth home run of the season and fourth in his past eight games.
That cut the lead to 6-2 with no outs and the Mariners had life.
Then Zunino drew a walk and the Angels pulled Ohtani with no outs. Pinch-hitter Guillermo Heredia then drew another walk.
But Dee Gordon hit into a double-play — just barely — and Jean Segura grounded out with Zunino at third to end the inning.