Angels outfielder Mike Trout hits a run-scoring triple during the sixth… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
The legend of Mike Trout grows, and where it stops, nobody knows.
One scout compared the dynamic Angels outfielder to Mickey Mantle ? when Trout was at Class-A Cedar Rapids in 2010.
Another scout, after watching the 20-year-old Trout for a month after his April 27 promotion from triple-A Salt Lake, predicted he would be the best player in the major leagues ? either by the end of this season or next season.
There don't seem to be enough superlatives to describe the speedy and powerful Trout, but suffice it to say, the kid can play a bit, as he showed again Friday night when he emptied his tool belt in the Angels' 4-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Trout drove in the Angels' first run with a triple off the right-center field wall and scored the tying run on Albert Pujols' sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. He raced to the warning track to make an over-the-shoulder catch and save two runs in the top of the seventh.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Trout stroked a two-run single to right-center off tough right-hander Alexi Ogando to help the Angels pull to within 41/2 games of the Rangers in the American League West.
"It usually takes 1,500 at-bats to really get to know this league -- what's he going to do after 1,500 at-bats?" Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said. "He's going to tear this league up. He has great speed and great plate discipline. You can't teach that. To have that ability at age 20? It's impressive."
Since May 1, Trout is batting .330 with five home runs, six doubles, three triples, 22 runs and 12 walks. Angels leadoff batters had a .250 on-base percentage before Trout arrived. Trout has a .370 OBP. The Angels were 6-14 before Trout was called up. They are 21-12 since.
"His talent speaks for itself, but to grasp that he's 20 years old, in the major leagues and playing at such a high level, it's very, very impressive," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's ready for the challenge. He's been an incredible catalyst."
Ernesto Frieri has had a similar impact on the bullpen.
The right-hander struck out two of three in the ninth Friday night for his third save and has now thrown 13 hitless innings with 27 strikeouts in his first 13 games with the Angels.
Scott Downs threw a scoreless eighth, striking out the dangerous Josh Hamilton on three pitches and getting Michael Young to bounce into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. The left-hander has not yielded a run in 19 innings this season.
The solid relief effort preserved the win for starter Jerome Williams, who gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking two, to improve to 6-2.
"One thing about getting momentum is you need guys who are going to hold leads," Scioscia said. "We're doing a great job of that."
Howie Kendrick started the winning rally in the seventh with a two-out single to center, and Texas starter Colby Lewis hit Erick Aybar with an 0-and-2 pitch. Second baseman Ian Kinsler charged Maicer Izturis' grounder too aggressively and booted it for an error, allowing the Angels to load the bases.
Trout then stroked his single to right-center for a 4-2 Angels lead.
"I just had a feeling I was going to come through," Trout said.
The Rangers took a 2-0 lead when Hamilton doubled and scored on Adrian Beltre's single in the first and Mike Napoli hit an RBI single in the fourth.
But Angels catcher John Hester opened the sixth with a double, Trout knocked him in with his triple and scored on Pujols' fly to medium right for a 2-2 tie.
"It's a blast," Trout said. "It's fun winning, pitching well and hitting well. It's been great so far."