The 2014 postseason was supposed to be Mike Trout's coming-out party. It was his chance to shine on the big stage and solidify his status among baseball's immortal talents.
It isn't over yet, but so far things aren't going swimmingly.
In two playoff games, Trout is 0-for-8. And the Los Angeles Angels are down 2-0 in the best-of-five ALDS to the no-quit Kansas City Royals, who look more like a team of destiny with each nail-biting victory.
The Royals' latest and most convincing win came Friday night, a stirring 4-1, 11-inning triumph.
To be fair, Trout's not the only Angel who isn't hitting. The Halos have managed just three runs in two games against K.C., and fellow middle-of-the-order hitters Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols have gone a combined 1-for-17.
But Trout is the stud, the prohibitive MVP favorite. The guy who is supposed to take the team on his shoulders and carry it across the finish line.
Right now, it looks like Los Angeles won't advance past the first lap.
On Friday night, the Angels faced rookie Yordano Ventura, who has electric stuff but came out of the bullpen to surrender a two-run home run in the Wild Card Playoff against the Oakland A's.
Ventura can touch triple digits with his fastball, and he pitched like a flame-throwing ace against the Angels. His counterpart and fellow rookie, right-hander Matt Shoemaker, wasn't so bad himself.
In fact, Shoemaker was downright excellent, allowing just one unearned run and striking out six in six innings. For a guy who missed the end of the season with an oblique strain, it was a gutsy, impressive performance.
But his teammates failed to reward him. Sure, the Angels plated a run in the sixth on a Pujols single to tie the game 1-1. As the contest stretched past the ninth, though, it seemed inherently to favor the Royals, who have now won three postseason games, all in extra frames.
As for the Angels? After accumulating the best record in baseball at 98-64 and running away with the AL West, they're teetering on the brink of an early, unceremonious exit.
If they're going to stave off elimination, they'll need something from Trout.
As Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram (h/t Los Angeles Daily News) put it Oct. 1:
[Trout] was Rookie of the Year in 2012 and could win the AL Most Valuable Player award for his efforts during this 2014 regular season.
He has not toiled in the postseason yet, however. And since the baseball world is looking at him as the new face of baseball, what with the Yankees’ Derek Jeter retiring, there is tremendous anticipation to see what the 23-year-old from New Jersey does with that first taste.
Will it be bitter? Sweet? Somewhere in the middle?
We still don't know the answer. The Angels, and Trout, will get another crack at the Royals on Sunday in Kansas City. It's not over till it's over; there's still time for redemptive heroics.
Otherwise, the 2014 campaign will go down as a colossal disappointment for Trout and the Halos.
After ostensible ace Garrett Richards went down with a knee injury Aug. 20, pitching was supposed to be the Angels' biggest weakness.
Instead, they've gotten solid efforts so far in the ALDS from starters Shoemaker and Jered Weaver. And the 'pen has mostly held its own.
It's been the bats—which led MLB with 773 runs scored—that have gone limp at the worst possible time.
Trout, per Greg Beacham of The Associated Press (h/t ABC News), got some valuable advice from Pujols prior to the postseason: "He told me to just be myself...Just keep that same swing that got you here, and go from there. It's definitely a bigger game, for sure. All eyes are on you."
The problem, now, is that all eyes may soon be off Trout. And the party may be over before it starts.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.