ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There was really no need for Angels outfielder Mike Trout to restate his case that he is the best player in the game, not three days after he won his second consecutive All-Star MVP award in Cincinnati.
But no sense placing any artificial limits on the argument. Trout’s walk-off home run with two outs in the ninth inning Friday night off Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, giving the Los Angeles Angels a 1-0 win over the Sox in the first game after the break, was just another reminder that Trout has spent the first four seasons of his career jousting with immortals.
Best player in 2015? Nice, but why stop there. With every big swing and scene-stealing moment -- c’mon, the guy even hit two home runs on Mom’s birthday not long ago -- Trout is making his case that baseball has never seen a 23-year-old quite like him. Lead off the All-Star Game with one homer, break up a scoreless tie with a walk-off his next.
“It’s been a crazy week, for sure,” Trout said after hitting the third walk-off homer of his career. “It’s one of those weeks I’m definitely going to remember. It’s been fun. This is why we play the game, to have fun.”
The home run Friday night, which came on an 0-and-1 fastball from Uehara and landed in the artificial rockpile in Anaheim Stadium’s center field, was his 27th of the season, matching Giancarlo Stanton for most in the majors. It was also the 125th of his career. Only six players have hit more at his age -- four Hall of Famers (Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Ted Williams), a guy certain to be inducted next summer (Ken Griffey Jr.) and Alex Rodriguez.
It was Williams, who has no peer in Red Sox history, who once said, "All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street folks will say, 'There goes the greatest hitter that ever lived.'"
Trout may pass the 23-year-old Williams in home runs before the Red Sox, who have three more games here, leave town. Williams hit 127 by age 23 (player ages are computed as their age on June 30, per Baseball-reference.com). Williams kept hitting until he was 42, so his legacy is not yet under siege, but at this rate, the day may come when someone else comes ambling down the same sidewalk.
“You know Mike is dangerous any time -- you make a good pitch on him, he still has a chance to hit it,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s just done it time in and time out. He got it done tonight. That was a huge hit. I don’t know if you can find any more accolades to talk about Mike Trout because he does so many things well.”
It was another devastating loss for the Red Sox, who now trail the Yankees by 7½ games in the American League East. Starter Wade Miley was perfect for 5 1/3 innings and took a no-hitter into the seventh, when Kole Calhoun opened the inning by lining a double off the center-field fence.
Trout’s home run was only the second hit of the game for the home team, which only last Sunday overtook Houston for the lead in the American League West and remained a half-game ahead of the Astros with the victory Friday. It was the first time since June 6, 1998, when Bobby Valentine’s Mets beat Jimy Williams’s Red Sox 1-0 that the Sox had lost a game in which they’d held the opposition to two or fewer hits.
But the Red Sox had just five hits off Angels lefty C.J. Wilson, who went the first eight innings, and reliever Joe Smith, and never advanced a runner past second base.
Miley was lifted after walking David Freese to start the eighth. Junichi Tazawa retired the next three batters, and with the top of the Angels order coming to the plate, Farrell decided that his best option was to go to the well-rested Uehara, even though he doesn’t typically use his closer in a tie game on the road.
“Given his success against those guys, we felt like that was going to be the game,’’ Farrell said. “We went with our guy, who has been very, very good for us in Koji.’’
Uehara retired the first two batters he faced, Johnny Giavotella (popup) and Calhoun (whiff), with ease, then threw a first-pitch strike to Trout, whom he had retired all five times he’d faced him previously, three times via strikeout.
Trout did not miss the next pitch. “I was trying to go a little more outside,’’ said Uehara, who had been unscored upon in his previous 10 appearances. “I knew that I had a good record against him, but he had a good at-bat against me.’’
Uehara spent less than a minute discussing the at-bat with English-speaking reporters before excusing himself and briskly striding away, clearly unhappy with the outcome.
Miley had retired Trout in his first three at-bats, on a first-inning ground ball, a fourth-inning strikeout and a seventh-inning drive caught at the center-field wall by Mookie Betts. His approach against him?
“Keep the ball in the yard,’’ Miley said. “I threw a changeup to him in the seventh, I thought he hit a weak fly ball to right and it almost got out.
“He’s the best in the game right now. You just try to keep him at bay as best as possible.’’