The wonderful thing about baseball is the story we expect to dominate headlines entering a game or a series can often be overshadowed by something unexpected or historic. You just never know which direction it will take, which keeps things unpredictable and gives us endless topics to discuss.
Such was the case during the anticipated Los Angeles Angels-Washington Nationals series this week featuring the first-ever regular season battle between Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. We expected the spotlight to be trained on the two young phenoms throughout, but it was 41-year-old Raul Ibanez who stole the show on Monday with a three-run double in the eighth. Then on Tuesday, a red hot Albert Pujols connected for career home runs No. 499 and 500, which had many fans focusing on his milestone and thinking back to his explosive early days as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001.
On Wednesday, though, we finally had a moment that put the spotlight on both Trout and Harper, but by the time the play was over it was shining solely on Trout.
It happened in the first inning with Harper hitting and two Nationals on base. Harper drilled a sinking line drive in Trout's direction that appeared destined to fall and perhaps give Washington an early lead. However, Trout charged in from deep center field and extended full out to make a diving catch, robbing Harper of a hit and Washington the chance for a huge first inning.
It's the type of play and effort Trout has become known for. In fact, such a play barely registers anymore since we've grown accustomed to watching him scale fences and dive in every direction. But robbing Harper certainly registers, because even if they may not acknowledge a personal rivalry, the competitive drive they both possess suggests they'd like to get one over on the other.
In this case, it's advantage Trout.
As for the series, the advantage goes to Trout again. He finished 5-for-14 with a double, three runs scored and the Angels took home two victories. Harper finished the series 1-for-11 with a walk, but Washington did rally from a three-run deficit to win it 5-4 in the ninth inning Wednesday.
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