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The Strike Zone

Mike Trout's cycle more about Mike Trout than the cycle

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The players who hit for the cycle or throw a no-hitter don’t always make sense -- Arizona’s Aaron Hill, a fine player but nobody's idea of a superstar, hit for the cycle twice in a fortnight last year, for example, and the otherwise-forgettable Philip Humber and Dallas Braden have thrown perfect games -- but a cycle from Mike Trout comes with a whiff of inevitability.

The Angels’ 21-year-old outfielder, last season's AL MVP runner-up and the reigning Rookie of the Year, completed his cycle Tuesday night in a 12-0 win over the Mariners. After being called out on strikes in the first inning, Trout singled in the third, tripled home a run in the fourth, smacked a bases-loaded double in the sixth and crushed a solo homer in the eighth.

There have been better overall offensive games this year -- such as Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez going 5-for-5 with two home runs -- as the cycle is more of a coincidental collection of hits than the ultimate achievement of hitting. (Who can forget Tampa Bay’s Sam Fuld missing the cycle two years ago when, needing only a single to complete one, he legged out a second double rather than stop at first base? Was his performance somehow worse because he collected an extra total base?) Still, there are two laudatory notes from Trout’s evening.

1) Trout’s unique power-speed combination was clearly on display.

Maybe the most impressive part of Trout’s night wasn’t the cycle itself but how he completed it. In the eighth inning Seattle’s lefthanded reliever Lucas Luetge threw a good 2-0 pitch, a 91-mph fastball down at the ankles, yet somehow Trout managed not only to hit the baseball but also to crush a home run into the opposite-field power gap of right-centerfield.

Trout’s speed, meanwhile, was evident in his triple, when he sprinted his way to third on a gapper on which most players would have been content with a double. Some cycles, after all, require unusually long caroms off the wall for players to tick off the triple box on their checklist. (Bengie Molina, for instance.) But Trout also stole a base following his third-inning single, his ninth of this year after leading the majors with 49 in 2012. According to Baseball-Reference.com, of the 239 cycles in the majors since 1916, only 17 of them included a stolen base as well.

2) Trout scoffs at the suggestion of a sophomore slump.

His .931 OPS now ranks fifth in the AL, and he is in the AL’s top-10 in hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases and slugging. After going just 1-for-8 in a 19-inning loss on April 29, Trout has gone 26-for-74 since with 15 extra-base hits (including seven homers) for a .351/.443/.784 slash line. It’s probably just a coincidence, but that hot streak started the exact same day Trout reclaimed centerfield after Peter Bourjos went on the disabled list following an injury suffered in the marathon loss.

The takeaway from Trout’s cycle isn’t so much the feat itself but a reminder of the rare combination of tools he possesses. Those near-equal abilities to hit for contact, hit for power and run might make performances such as the cycle a, well, cyclical event.
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