As Trout hits, Angels continue to climb

Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Getty Images

Mike Trout has been leading the Angels up the AL West standings.

The Los Angeles Angels continue to creep up on the Oakland Athletics in the AL West after going 18-11 since the start of June, sitting just 3 1/2 games back.

As usual, Mike Trout has played a huge role, batting .354 in that span.

Mike Trout vs Offspeed Pitches
Since June 1

Despite his youth, Trout continues to find ways to improve. This recent hot stretch has been fueled by crushing offspeed pitches. Since June 1, he is hitting .529 against breaking balls with a ridiculous 1.118 slugging percentage.

How good are those numbers? Those rates are twice as good as the numbers he put up in the first two months of the season against offspeed pitches (.277 BA, .523 slug pct). To put it in further perspective, in that same span the next highest batting average against breaking balls is .421 by Adrian Beltre.

Friday's matchup

Trout will get to test his offspeed-crushing skills Friday against Houston Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel, who has been one of the biggest surprises this season.

Keuchel entered this season with a 5.20 career ERA in two seasons, but this year takes a 2.78 ERA into his start against the Angels.

A big reason for his success is an extremely effective slider. This season, opponents are hitting just .143 against Keuchel’s slider. That ranks fifth-best among all qualified major league starters.

Trout does have four hits in 14 career at-bats against Keuchel, but is 0-3 with two strikeouts in at-bats ending in a slider.

The Angels have faced Keuchel twice this season, going 1-1 with the one win coming in Houston when they knocked him out after a season-low five innings.