After falling out of first place in the American League West for the first time in 30 days, the Oakland Athletics look to regroup when they begin a three-game series against the host Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
The Athletics dropped two of three against Houston, which took over the top spot in the division. Oakland now faces another divisional foe in the Angels, who split a doubleheader against Minnesota on Thursday.
The Angels have lost seven of their last 10 games and are 1-3 since losing star center fielder Mike Trout for at least six weeks with a strained calf.
Los Angeles has given outfielder Taylor Ward an extended look in recent weeks and were rewarded in the first game on Thursday, when the 27-year-old went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the 7-1 win.
For the Angels to remain in contention during Trout’s absence, they’ll need contributions from players such as Ward and utilityman Phil Gosselin, who is batting .311 with seven RBIs in 15 games since joining the Angels.
“Goose can hit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not surprising at all. And especially against a left-hander. He’s got a live bat; the ball comes off hot. Go back to any organization he’s played in and talk to the people that had been there. They’ll tell you the same thing.”
The Athletics are batting .235 in May but have received a welcome spark from shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is 11-for-33 during his 10-game hitting streak after hitting .143 over his first 31 games.
Third baseman Matt Chapman is also showing encouraging signs at the plate after hitting .189 in April. The 28-year-old struck out three times in Thursday’s 8-4 loss to Houston but was 5-for-11 with two doubles in his previous three games.
Chapman’s right hip injury from last season has played a role in his slow start, which has included just five home runs in his first 153 at-bats.
“I think hitting the ball hard, and seeing the exit velo go up means that my strength is coming back,” Chapman said. “I think my hip is feeling good, and it’s starting to get used to playing every day. And I think it’s starting to fire the right way again to where the power will continue to come back.”
Chapman aims for another step forward Friday against Angels starter Jose Quintana (0-3, 8.53 ERA), who is seeking his first victory since Sept. 5, 2019.
The 32-year-old left-hander received a no-decision after allowing three runs with seven strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings against Boston last Sunday.
Quintana is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in six career starts against Oakland while holding Andrus to four hits in 17 at-bats. This will be his first appearance against the Athletics since pitching for the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 7, 2019.
Oakland starter James Kaprielian (1-0, 1.80) earned the victory in his first major league start with five strong innings against the Boston Red Sox on May 12.
The 27-year-old right-hander settled in after a shaky first inning and exited after giving up one run on four hits with six strikeouts.
Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, who leads the majors with 14 home runs and was rested in the first half of Thursday’s doubleheader, went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the second game.
–Field Level Media