Phillies-Angels 5 Things: First Look at Mike Trout Since 2014

Phillies (39-64) at Angels (51-55)
10:07 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The non-waiver trade deadline has passed, ushering in a month of August in which trades can be made but are more difficult (see story).

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The Phillies open the month with an eight-game, three-city road trip that begins with a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.

Here are five things to know for the opener on Tuesday:

1. Trout watch
The only other year the Phillies faced Mike Trout was 2014, when he went 2 for 17 with a triple and seven strikeouts in four games.

We all know Trout is unlikely to have another modest series. He was having yet another MVP-caliber season when he went on the disabled list in May for the first time in his career. He underwent thumb surgery on May 31, but because he's Mike Trout, he returned about three weeks earlier than expected.

Trout has picked up right where he left off, hitting .315/.422/.500 with three homers and nine RBIs in 14 games since returning. Overall this season, he's hit .332/.452/.682 - all three numbers are career highs. 

The book on Trout for several years was to attack him with high fastballs because his plate coverage on low pitches is so, so good. But he's even fixed that relative weakness, making it even more impossible to pitch to him.

From 2011-15, Trout hit .145 on pitches at the letters or above and .216 on high pitches in the strike zone.

In 2016 and 2017, he's hit .203 on pitches at the letters or above and .268 on high pitches in the strike zone.

As his plate coverage has improved, Trout's strikeout rate has dropped from 22.5 percent from 2011-15 to 20.2 percent the last two seasons. Meanwhile, his walk rate has increased from 12.5 percent to 17.0 percent.

Two tremendous months could potentially put Trout back ahead in the MVP race, but it looks like Jose Altuve's award to lose at this point.

2. Nola becoming a must-watch
The evolution of Aaron Nola from mid-rotation piece to ace may be underway.

Nola has been utterly dominant his last seven starts, going 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA, .189 opponents' batting average and 60 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. 

All four of his pitches are plus-pitches at the moment. His four-seam fastball is maxing out at 95 mph. His two-seam fastball has generated a .137 batting average the last seven starts. He struck out seven Astros last week just on curveballs. And he's most excited about his changeup command, which he feels is the best it's ever been.

Nola has two knee-buckling pitches in the two-seamer and curveball. Both pitches are capable of freezing even the hitters who've seen him a lot. Thus, the Angels could be in for a rude awakening. 

Only three active Angels - Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar and Ben Revere - have seen Nola and they're a combined 4 for 22 with a double, no walks and three strikeouts.

3. Familiar foe in Nolasco
The Phillies faced Ricky Nolasco 22 times from 2006-13 when he was in the National League but have seen him just once since 2014. Nolasco spent those first eight seasons with the Marlins before being traded to the Dodgers midway through 2013 and then signing with the Twins in free agency.

Nolasco signed a big contract with Minnesota - four years, $49 million - but had a terrible run with the Twins, going 15-22 with a 5.44 ERA in 57 games. The Twins then traded him to the Angels at last year's deadline for starting pitcher Hector Santiago.

Nolasco pitched well late last season for the Angels but is struggling again this year, with a 4-12 record and 5.07 ERA through 21 starts. Righties have hit .309 with a .907 OPS against him and lefties have hit .262 with an .804 OPS. 

Nolasco has allowed 27 home runs, tied with Masahiro Tanaka for the most in the majors.

Because the Phillies have faced Nolasco only once since 2014, not a lot of guys on this team have extensive experience against him. Freddy Galvis is 2 for 7 with a double and triple. Cesar Hernandez is 3 for 3. Maikel Franco is 0 for 2 with two walks.

4. Red-hot Herrera
Controversy has swirled around Odubel Herrera recently because of all the bat flips and a few mental mistakes, but his bat has remained hot through it all.

Herrera demolished a three-run homer to the second deck in right field Monday, his 11th home run of the season. Since June 3, he's hit .339 with a .958 OPS, 20 doubles and eight home runs.

Since July 3, he's hit .383 with a 1.129 OPS, seven doubles and six homers. 

In all three of his big-league seasons, Herrera has had one of these extended hot streaks.

5. This and that
• Albert Pujols is a shell of his former self but is still a dangerous power hitter. He went deep twice on Sunday for his 15th and 16th homers of the year. He's hitting just .233 with a .280 OBP, though, and has only 10 doubles because he can barely move these days.

• The Angels are not a good American League offense but they do have a few players other than Trout who can hurt you. Simmons is enjoying his best offensive season, hitting .302 with an .812 OPS. Escobar, another former Braves shortstop, is a .272 hitter but is typically a tough out. He leads off for the Halos.

• Cesar Hernandez has hit .333 with a .422 on-base percentage in 13 games since returning from the DL.

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