Shohei Ohtani could be making his final appearance as a Los Angeles Angel at the birthplace of his Major League Baseball career when the Oakland Athletics host a three-game series beginning Friday night.
Left-handers Patrick Sandoval (7-10, 3.95 ERA) of the Angels and JP Sears (2-11, 4.80) of the A's will start the opener of a series in which Ohtani won't pitch but will get an opportunity to pad his gaudy offensive numbers against the team with the majors' worst ERA.
The AL West rivals will also meet in Los Angeles in four weeks to close out the regular season in what could be Ohtani's final home series for the Angels.
The two-way Japanese star made his MLB debut in Oakland on March 29, 2018, batting eighth as the DH in a 6-5, 11-inning loss. He recorded a single in his first MLB at-bat against Kendall Graveman in a 1-for-5 debut, before sitting out two games and then registering his first pitching win in a 7-4 victory in the series finale, allowing three runs in six innings.
Now in his sixth season, Ohtani has hit .292 with 18 home runs and 49 RBIs in 72 games against the A's. The right-hander also has gone 5-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 12 starts against Oakland.
Ohtani has gone 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI against Sears over two games, one last August and the other in April.
Currently dealing with a torn right UCL that will keep him from pitching again this season, Ohtani, 29, is scheduled to become a free agent this winter.
Sears went 0-4 with an 8.25 ERA in five August starts, including allowing 13 runs and 18 hits over 10 innings in his last two outings against the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox.
The 27-year-old was on the losing end of an 8-7 decision in his only previous start against the Angels this season, roughed up for six runs in 4 1/3 innings. He's gone 0-1 with a 7.45 ERA in two career starts against the Angels.
Sears is slated to make his 27th start of the season as he attempts to keep his goal alive of reaching 30 in his first full season.
"JP (is) on track to make every start, and that's an accomplishment in itself," A's manager Mark Kotsay noted. "For him to, at this point in the season, still be feeling strong, still being able to post (good numbers), that's a good sign."
Sears could benefit from the Angels having waived key right-handed hitter Hunter Renfroe, who was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. Los Angeles, of course, remains without its top right-handed hitter, injured star Mike Trout.
Four other Angels — pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Matt Moore and Dominic Leone — were claimed off waivers Thursday. The Cleveland Guardians claimed Giolito, Lopez and Moore, while the Seattle Mariners added Leone.
One player who has benefitted from the Angels' roster makeover is first baseman Nolan Schanuel, a recently promoted rookie who has played in 10 games (nine as a starter) and gotten hits in all 10.
"Right now, my job is to get on for Shohei," the leadoff man said. "That's my job. Just trying to make everybody happy and score some runs."
The A's have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games as they open a six-game homestand against Sandoval, against whom they have had no success this season. Two of his seven wins have come against the A's in games in which he both pitched well (three earned runs in 12 innings) and got a lot of support (13-1 and 11-3 victories).
He has pitched to a 1.93 ERA in 10 career starts against the A's, going 4-3.
—Field Level Media