Trout homers in 7th game in a row; Guardians beat Angels, pad lead

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND — Angels star Mike Trout homered in his seventh consecutive game, one shy of the major league record, but the AL Central-leading Cleveland Guardians beat Los Angeles 5-4 on Monday night.

Trout’s 35th homer of the season came in the fifth inning. The three-time AL MVP connected off Konnor Pilkington for a two-run, 422-foot drive to dead center at Progressive Field.

Pittsburgh’s Dale Long established the MLB record of eight straight games with a home run in 1956. Don Mattingly of the Yankees matched it in 1987, as did Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993.

“That’s good company to be in,” Trout said. “I’m just putting a good swing on the ball and they’re going out.”

Trout can match the mark on Tuesday night when the Angels continue their series with the Guardians. He said he isn’t worried about Cleveland pitching around him.

“I’m going up there ready to hit and whatever happens, happens,” Trout said. “I’ll come in tomorrow and do the same thing because it’s working for me.”

Trout is the first AL player with a seven-game home run streak since Kendrys Morales of Toronto in 2018. Cincinnati’s Joey Votto homered in seven straight last season from July 24-30.

Amed Rosario doubled home Steven Kwan with the go-ahead run in the seventh for Cleveland, which increased its advantage to three games over the Chicago White Sox and five games over third-place Minnesota.

“We’ve got some work to do to clinch the thing, but I think we’ve been working the right way all season,” said Guardians catcher Austin Hedges, who hit a two-run double. “We’re a team that does get the big hit.”

The game featured a strange sequence in the seventh when Cleveland manager Terry Francona and Angels interim manager Phil Nevin were both ejected without a pitch being thrown in-between.

Things got heated in the seventh when Francona argued that Andres Gimenez was hit by a pitch from Ryan Tepera. Francona got ejected by umpire crew chief Ron Kulpa, and when Tepera was denied warmup throws following the delay, Nevin got tossed.

“Truth be told, I don’t know what was going through my mind, and I don’t like that,” Francona said.

Nevin agreed that Francona signaled for a replay challenge in time, but Kulpa didn’t see the gesture. Tepera said both he and Kulpa apologized for their disagreement between innings.

“To me, that was a player safety issue, not allowing Ryan any warmup pitches,” Nevin said. “And I didn’t understand it.”

Kulpa also exited with two outs and two strikes in the ninth after being struck on the mask by a foul ball hit by Matt Thaiss. Second base umpire Carlos Torres replaced him behind the plate.

We weren’t aware that (Francona) was holding for us to look at a hit by pitch,” first base umpire John Tumpane said in a pool report. “By our protocol, if the pitcher is on the rubber and the batter is in the box, we’re moving onto the next pitch.”

“Obviously, player safety is paramount, and looking back at it, yes, we would have given (Tepera) some warmup pitches so his safety was not at risk,” he said.

Enyel De Los Santos (4-0) worked a scoreless seventh for the win and Emmanuel Clase pitched a perfect ninth for his MLB-best 34th save. Aaron Loup (0-5) surrendered Rosario’s RBI double.

The Guardians took a 4-0 lead in the second off Reid Detmers, highlighted by Hedges’ two-run double. Tyler Freeman and his fellow rookie, Kwan, had RBI singles.

Pilkington allowed four runs over five innings on his 25th birthday. The left-hander also was touched for a two-run homer by Matt Duffy in the fourth.

Reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani went 1 for 3 for the Angels, who are 1-19 on the road against Cleveland since 2015.

ARMS RACE

The Guardians are in the midst of playing 18 games in a 17-day span, forcing them to adjust their rotation on the fly. Pilkington made his first start since July 23, while they haven’t decided who will work the series finale Wednesday.

Right-hander Cal Quantrill, who has a team-best 12 victories, would remain on regular rest if he pitches against the Angels. Cleveland has a makeup game Thursday at home against the White Sox.

“If Cal had his druthers, he’d stay on his fifth day,” Francona said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Angels: 2B David Fletcher (right hand bruise), who was hurt Saturday at Houston, was held out of the lineup for the second day in a row. Fletcher did fielding drills before the game and was available to pinch-hit.

Guardians: RHP Aaron Civale (right forearm inflammation) threw a bullpen session for pitching coach Carl Willis earlier in the day. Francona is unsure if Civale will require a rehab assignment before being activated.

UP NEXT

Angels: LHP Jose Suarez (6-6, 3.77 ERA) has won back-to-back starts and is 5-2 with a 1.76 ERA over his last seven outings. Suarez is 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in two career appearances against Cleveland.

Guardians: RHP Cody Morris (0-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his third appearance in the majors. Morris has totaled six innings in two starts, striking out five with three walks, since debuting Sept. 2 against Seattle.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.