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OC Register: Freeway Series: Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout lead Angels past Dodgers in Game 1

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ANAHEIM – From where Dodgers’ right-hander Walker Buehler was standing Sunday – a mere 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate – Angels star Mike Trout appeared all the way back and ready to thrive again.

In his first game at Angel Stadium since May 17 of last year, Trout sent a pair of fly balls to the base of the wall in his first two at-bats against Buehler, who officially has top-of-the-rotation status for the Dodgers now. His first Opening Day start is set for next week.

In the first inning of Sunday’s opening Freeway Series game, Trout sent a 95-mph fastball from Buehler to the wall in center, where Cody Bellinger made the catch. In the third inning, Trout showed a little more patience, hitting an 89-mph changeup on the fifth pitch to Chris Taylor on the warning track in left.

Buehler and Trout sent high-wattage smiles toward each other, with the Dodgers pitcher heaving out a chuckle of what appeared to be awe and respect.

“He hit two balls to the warning track in a row, within 6 total inches of being homers,” said Buehler, ultimately retiring Trout on a ground ball in a third showdown in the fifth inning. “He’s one of the best hitters we have in this game. He’s out twice, but he hit two balls hard so … ”

In what would end up being a 5-1 victory for the Angels, two of the brightest stars in Southern California were the main attraction.

Buehler was, by no means, at his best after allowing home runs to Taylor Ward, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon. But the Dodgers were more interested in seeing Buehler get up and down enough to go five innings and throw 85 pitches.

“You guys know how I am, I’m always tinkering with stuff,” said Buehler, who had mixed results with his changeup. “Maybe tinkering a little too much, but we’ll move forward.”

The Angels, meanwhile, saw an all-around power display, with no reason to believe it won’t be there all season to complement what is expected to be a return to MVP contention for Trout. The three-time winner of the award has not raised top-honor hardware since 2019.

Trout went 0-for-4 Sunday with a .222 batting average and no extra-base hits so far this spring in eight Cactus League/Freeway Series games. It leaves him two games and five days away from his return to regular-season action just over 10 months since he last played in a game that counted.

Where Buehler lacked his typical deft touch, giving up five runs on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts, Angels starter Noah Syndergaard was sharp in his Angel Stadium debut. Syndergaard gave up one run on two hits over five innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

“As I get more comfortable with my delivery and start getting back more game speed, you get that adrenaline, I think you’ll see the velocity tick up,” said Syndergaard, who was consistently in the 95-mph range. “As far as free and easy delivery goes, I think tonight is one of the best it’s been past 2019. It’s one of the best it’s felt in a long time.”

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