Angels’ Little League Defense Gifts Inside-The-Park HR To One Of MLB’s Slowest Players

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Five games.

That’s how long it took for the Los Angeles Angels to play defense like it was Game 162 of a last-place season and the jet to transport them to an offseason vacation awaited in the Angel Stadium parking lot.

A recent beneficiary of their giving zero effs: Edwin Encarnacion, the astonishingly slow designated hitter whom the Angels’ indifference gifted with an inside-the-park home run on Monday.

In the top of the second during the Cleveland Indians‘ visit in Los Angeles, Encarnacion cracked a fly ball toward the left field corner, where Justin Upton made an initial effort to catch the ball, then pretty much gave up once the ball landed fair.

Upton eventually loped to the ball in left-center, then did an impression of a six-year-old throwing the ball into the infield as Encarnacion strode home.

The colossal screwup was compounded by center fielder Mike Trout, typically an ace defensive player, who was apparently so tired from the first four games of the season he decided not to back up the play. By the time Upton and Trout converged on the ball, Encarnacion — the 420th-fastest player in sprint speed out of 465 MLB players in 2017 — was rounding third base.

“I ran after the ball and I braced myself on the wall, had no clue the ball was fair, couldn’t hear anything,” Upton said after suffering a 6-0 defeat. “(Mike) Trout was yelling but I couldn’t hear anything, so it was an inside-the-park home run.”

After the sweatiest dinger of his life — the 351st of his career in the majors — teammates greeted Encarnacion by waving towels to fan him off.

“I was too tired,” he said. “I just see the ball and when the ball go away from Upton, I said in my mind, ‘I’ve got to make it to the plate.’ It was a lot of running. But I like it. It’s good. … It was fun. Everybody was laughing about it. Everybody enjoyed it. That’s good.”

“I knew he had wheels, but …” said a laughing Mike Clevinger, who got the win by tossing 5.1 scoreless innings. “You see something new every day.”