10/02/12 2:43 AM ET
Hunter to hit .300 for first time in his career
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
With seven hits in Sunday's doubleheader split against the Rangers, Hunter put his batting average at .313 heading into Monday night's series opener against the Mariners. If he goes 0-for-5 in each of these last three regular-season games, his batting average would still be at .304. If the Angels play a tiebreaker and he goes 0-for-5 there, he'd finish at .302.
"Individually, it's a great goal, it's a great thing for me, but everybody's main goal is to win the World Series, and that's really what I want to do," Hunter said. "But .300 is special."
Hunter's batting average is way up from the .274 he averaged from 1999 to 2011, but his home run total (16) will be his lowest since 2005, when he hit 14 while playing in only 98 games. In his previous 13 seasons, Hunter averaged 22 per year.
He's just a different hitter these days.
Going back to the second half of last season, Hunter made a conscious effort to shorten up his swing and go gap-to-gap, rather than trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark like he did as a middle-of-the-order hitter with the Twins.
Since being placed in the No. 2 spot on June 8, Hunter has posted a .340/.384/.475 slash line. Since the All-Star break, he leads the AL with a .350 batting average. And in 27 September games, he hit .346 with 26 RBIs.
But Hunter backdates his surge at the plate to May 29, when he returned from the restricted list after spending more than a couple of weeks in Texas dealing with his son's sexual-assault case.
"When I came back, I was kind of upset and motivated to do something," Hunter said. "Baseball was my safe haven. I could let all my frustration go on the field."
Hunter won nine straight Gold Gloves as a center fielder from 2001-09. But this year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been touting him for the Gold Glove in right field, the position he switched to midway through 2010.
That'll be up to the coaches and managers of the AL, who vote on the award and can't select a player from their own team.
"I know I should get that," Hunter said. "But, it's up to those guys. If they don't want me to have it, that's fine."
Scioscia not surprised by Trout's power
SEATTLE -- If there's one thing surprising about Mike Trout's historic rookie season -- besides, you know, how historic it is -- it's the amount of home runs he's hit.
On Sunday, Trout hit No. 30 -- tying teammate Albert Pujols -- despite spending his first four weeks in the Minor Leagues and totaling only 23 homers in 286 career Minor League games. Trout has credited some of that to a more upright stance, a subtle tweak that has nonetheless given him more power and plate coverage.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't surprised by the home runs, though. He saw Trout blast homers to right-center field while showcasing himself at Angel Stadium as a 17-year-old.
He figured the power would eventually come.
"It's starting to develop," Scioscia said. "I don't think we need to make too much of it. I think you're seeing a guy who has the potential to drive the ball like he does. He's just been doing it with frequency that he thought he eventually would get to. But this guy, I mean, he's a hitter with power. And I think his [opposite-field] power is a difference-maker."
What makes Trout special is that he combines the home-run production with a .321 batting average, which he sported entering Monday's series opener against the Mariners, and a high walk rate (a team-leading 67, though he's also second on the team with 136 strikeouts).
The concern, perhaps, is that a 21-year-old who reaches 30 homers falls in love with the long ball, to the point where it diminishes his approach and, eventually, his on-base percentage.
Scioscia doesn't see that happening with Trout.
"I don't think he will because I think he feels that, too -- he's a hitter with power," Scioscia said. "He's not forcing home runs, he's taking them as they come and it's just a byproduct of him getting a good pitch. And he's really, really strong, he has a short, quick stroke, and he's squared his share up this year, for sure."
Aybar out of lineup with quad tightness
SEATTLE -- Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, who exited Game 2 of Sunday's doubleheader early due to tightness in his right quad, was out of the starting lineup for Monday's series opener in Seattle and was unsure if he'd play in any of these last regular-season games.
"Let's see what happens," Aybar said in Spanish. "I can't tell you yes or no. We're trying to combat this as quickly as possible to see if it loosens up by tomorrow."
Aybar hurt himself running out a grounder in the second inning at Rangers Ballpark, an 8-7 loss that put the Angels three games back of the second American League Wild Card spot with three to play.
Aybar, with a .347 batting average since the start of August that ranks second in the AL, stayed away from pregame activities at Safeco Field, only receiving a massage in the area and riding the stationary bike for about a half-hour. The only way manager Mike Scioscia said Aybar might be available Monday night was to possibly lay down a bunt off the bench.
"It still hurts," Aybar said. "It's still tight."
Right fielder Torii Hunter left Monday's 8-4 win over the Mariners in the seventh inning because he was feeling light-headed. Hunter said he was probably dehydrated because his muscles were cramping up but felt better after the game.
With a first-inning RBI double off the center-field wall against Felix Hernandez, Albert Pujols became the first player in Major League history to combine 50-plus doubles and 30-plus homers in three different seasons. Chuck Klein and Todd Helton each did it twice.
With 129 runs, Mike Trout is now third among all-time American League rookies. Only Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio (132 with the Yankees in '36) and Ted Williams (131 with the Red Sox in '39) had more.
The Angels and Inland Empire 66ers reached a player-development extension through 2014, the two clubs announced on Monday. The 66ers have been the Angels' advanced Class A affiliate since 2011.
Trout's jersey is the fifth-most popular in the Majors, based on sales since the All-Star break. The four ahead of him, respectively, are: Derek Jeter (Yankees), Josh Hamilton (Rangers), Ichiro Suzuki (Yankees) and Bryce Harper (Nationals). Pujols, whose Angels No. 5 jersey was far and away the top seller during last year's holiday shopping season, did not crack the Top 20.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.