Big Three: Pujols, Trout and Hamilton helping Angels rise in AL West
On Tuesday afternoon, the Angels hit the trifecta. In the opening game of a doubleheader against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, their big three sluggers — Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — homered in the same game for just the second time in two seasons. With all three finally available and productive at the same time, Los Angeles' offense is humming, and the team now has the league's third-best record.
Trout and Pujols went back-to-back in the fifth inning of the opener, helping the Halos erase the 3-0 deficit. Trout's clout, his 19th of the year, was estimated at just 346 feet by the ESPN Home Run Tracker, but it came with two men on base, tying the score. Three pitches later, Pujols blasted one 425 feet to deep centerfield, his third-longest of his 17 homers this season.
That gave the Angels a 4-3 lead. They were ahead 5-3 when Hamilton came to bat against Ronald Belisario with two outs in the seventh inning and poked one 392 feet to left-center for his fourth homer of the season.
The Angels wound up winning 8-4, and they took the nightcap as well, 7-5. It was the kind of outburst general manager Jerry DiPoto and manager Mike Scioscia dreamed of when the team signed Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal in December 2012, but thus far it's been an elusive dream. The only other time the trio all homered in the same game was back on May 14, 2013 against the Royals.
Here's a quick breakdown showing how often any two of the big three have homered in the same game since the start of the 2012 season, Pujols' first in Anaheim and Trout's official rookie year. Hamilton, as mentioned, didn't join forces with them until 2013.
Injuries have suppressed those totals, of course. Pujols missed 61 games last year due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and Hamilton sat out 48 games this year due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. The trio have been part of the same starting lineup for just 117 of the Angels’ 244 games over the past season and a half, 86 last year and 31 this year; Los Angeles is 62-55 in those games, but just 63-64 in the rest.
A good chunk of the Angels’ improvement from 2013 — when they won 78 games, their lowest total since 2003 — owes to Hamilton, who after slumping to a dismal .250/.307/.432 in his first season in Anaheim is hitting .315/.403/.469. L.A. was 30-26 when he rejoined the club on June 3, but since then, it has gone 17-9 for a major-league-best .654 winning percentage, and the lineup has cranked out 5.15 runs per game while doing so.
Trout, who endured a brief slump in the first half of May, has smoked opposing pitchers at a .364/.464/.727 clip since I checked in on him on May 14. He's now hitting .315/.410/.617 overall, with career highs in slugging percentage and OPS+ (188), the latter of which leads the league. Pujols, who started hot but has hit just .245/.296/.406 since the beginning of May, is batting just .257/.312/.467 overall, well off his career numbers. Even so, that line is still good for a 119 OPS+, and his 17 homers have already matched last year's total in 19 fewer games.
Thanks to above-average offensive performances at every position except third base and designated hitter, the Angels rank second in the league in scoring overall at 4.89 runs per game, while placing sixth in run prevention at 4.20 per game. At 47-35, they're 3 1/2 games behind the Athletics in the AL West, with a winning percentage (.573) that's within two points of the league's second-best mark, the Tigers' .575. L.A.'s +57 run differential is third behind Oakland (+134) and Seattle (+67).
The Angels have committed more than half a billion dollars in contracts to Pujols ($240 million), Trout ($144 million) and Hamilton. A postseason appearance this October will hardly justify the expenditure by itself, but with the big three clicking at long last, the team finally appears to be on the right track.