Shohei Ohtani will start for the Los Angeles Angels against the Oakland A's on Thursday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., looking to continue his remarkable stretch on the mound
The Angels will attempt to seal a series victory, as they have won two of the first three in the four-game set
Ohtani (3-0, 0.64 ERA) has made five starts this season and is yet to give up more than three hits in a game. In fact, he hasn't allowed more than three hits in nine consecutive outings dating back to last season. And he has yielded just two runs in 28 innings.
He hasn't allowed a home run all season, the streak going back to last August and totaling 76 consecutive innings. Opposing batters have just eight hits against him this season, two of which went for extra bases (both doubles). Overall, opposing batters are hitting .092 with a .115 slugging percentage.
Ohtani already had a vast repertoire of pitches before this season, but he has added a sweeper, which is a cross between a curveball and slider.
"From a hitter's standpoint, I would have no idea what to prepare for," Angels manager Phil Nevin said. "He's got (a 98 mph pitch) in there, but he doesn't usually throw the fastball a lot, but the sweeper's kind of unhittable and he's throwing it for strikes and in certain places
"I'm glad I don't have to face him. I'm glad he's on my side."
Ohtani will be starting against the A's for the 12th time, the most he has faced any major league team. He is 4-4 with a 2.26 ERA against Oakland, with 79 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings. That includes a no-decision on Opening Day this season, when he threw six scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out 10 in the Angels' 2-1 loss
Left-hander JP Sears (0-1, 4.98 ERA) will make his fifth start of the season for Oakland. He has faced the Angels once previously, in his A's debut on Aug. 10, 2022, when he yielded two runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings during a no-decision
Oakland manager Mark Kotsay added to his bullpen this week at the cost of losing a starting pitcher. The A's signed Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami to a one-year, $3.25 million contract before the season and expected him to provide a spark to the rotation, but he was 0-4 with a 14.40 ERA in four starts, prompting a move to the bullpen.
He made his first relief appearance on Wednesday the Athletics' 11-3 loss to the Angels, giving up one unearned run and two hits in two innings
"We're hopeful to get him out there, have him build his confidence back up and just continue to grow from there," Kotsay said. "It's tough. We gave him four outings and you saw what he could do in short spurts.
"We're continuing to talk to Fuji and open him up a little more. He's getting more comfortable with us. It is different here, but he likes it here. That's the most important thing. He's starting to get more open in communicating. I think we've got him in the right direction."
Kotsay said the club isn't ruling out a return to the rotation for Fujinami, but acknowledged that his diverse pitch repertoire, including a 100 mph fastball and good splitter, might serve him well in a relief role.
"In terms of the plus stuff, it's there," Kotsay said. "The fastball and the split, really those two pitches out of the bullpen could be devastating in a shorter stint."
--Field Level Media