One benefit of ace right-hander Shohei Ohtani opening a series on the mound for the Los Angeles Angels is the potential for him to set a tone with a signature, dominant performance.
On those rare occasions when things go sideways on Ohtani early, as they did Friday against the host Houston Astros, the Angels are left facing an uphill emotional climb for the rest of the series.
The Astros rocked Ohtani to the tune of six runs on nine hits, chasing him after just 3 1/3 innings en route to a 10-5 victory that opened a three-game weekend series. The teams meet again Saturday night.
“He just didn’t have his best stuff,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Ohtani. “There was no swing and miss. In my mind’s eye, there’s no reason to push him. When he’s not having his day, I don’t want to extend him.”
The Angels not only lost Ohtani after just 77 pitches on the mound, but they were without his prolific bat following only three plate appearances that included his major league-leading 44th home run and the first intentional walk of an American League pitcher since Jim Kaat was issued one on Sept. 1, 1970.
Ohtani threw a career-high 117 pitches in his previous outing against the Texas Rangers on Sept. 3. That fact, combined with his performance against the Astros and the load he’s carried serving as the AL Most Valuable Player front-runner, led to questions regarding lingering fatigue.
“There was a little bit of soreness from my last outing,” Ohtani said. “There are a couple of weeks left in the season, so I’m just focusing on finishing strong and healthy.”
Left-hander Jose Suarez (6-7, 3.74 ERA) will get the start for the Angels on Saturday.
He was victorious in his most recent start after recording his first career complete game and the first for the Angels this season. Suarez allowed one run on five hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in a 4-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Sept. 4.
Suarez is 3-6 with a 4.71 ERA in 10 starts this season. In six career games (four starts) against the Astros, he is 1-2 with a 6.30 ERA. He won his lone appearance against Houston this year, getting a road win in relief on May 10 after tossing four innings of one-run ball.
Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia (10-6, 3.29 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros. He allowed three runs on six hits and one walk with five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings on Sunday but did not factor into the decision as Houston lost 4-3 to the San Diego Padres.
Garcia owns a 4-1 record with a 3.52 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 53 2/3 innings in his past 10 starts. He is 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA over five career games (three starts) against the Angels, including a 1-1 record and 4.70 ERA in four appearances (three starts) this season.
Houston cruised to a win Friday despite committing an uncharacteristic four errors, three in the fifth inning. however, the Astros led 9-4 entering that frame, in which they gave up only one run, so the miscues proved easily surmountable.
“This is a team that doesn’t dwell on things in the past,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “We started swinging the bats there and they helped us with a couple of walks. It was great to see the guys swinging the bats and having fun.”
–Field Level Media