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Angels DH Shohei Ohtani (forearm) expects to start finale vs. A’s

Sportsnaut
Jul 26, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Murphy was one of the Oakland A’s players rumored to be on the trading block leading up to the Tuesday deadline, but the catcher is thrilled that a deal didn’t come to fruition.

Murphy wants to be with the Athletics for the long term, and he will look to help Oakland win for the second straight day when it plays the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim, Calif., on Thursday afternoon.

Murphy was the most pivotal figure in the Athletics’ 3-1 victory on Wednesday. He hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off Shohei Ohtani in the sixth inning after touching the Angels ace for a run-scoring single two innings earlier.

The blast was Murphy’s 13th of the season, just four shy of the career best he established last season. He is batting .245 with a team-leading 45 RBIs.

Murphy, 27, first reached the majors in 2019 and became Oakland’s primary receiver during the shortened 2020 season. He has 41 homers and 126 RBIs in 277 games for the A’s.

So when trade speculation surfaced, most notably involving the Cleveland Guardians, Murphy was aware his time on the east side of San Francisco Bay could be ending. However, he didn’t want to play baseball at another destination.

“This is the organization that drafted me and gave me opportunities to play,” Murphy said after the Wednesday victory. “I love being an A. Of course, I understand the business of it, but I’m so happy to be an A, I’m happy to be here and building something good. We’re playing good baseball.

“It’s a compliment to be on the block, but I’m just so happy to be here.”

Oakland has won eight of its past 12 games after splitting the first two games of the current three-game set. The Athletics are 3-6 against the Angels this season.

Not only did Ohtani take the loss on Wednesday, but he also departed for pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki in the seventh inning. Interim manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani exited because of a mild cramp in his right forearm.

Nevin said he expected Ohtani to serve as the designated hitter on Thursday. Ohtani also believes he will be in the lineup.

“If I’m healthy enough to play, I want to be out there,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “It feels like I can’t really afford to miss games at this point.”

The Angels have lost four of their past six games and have been a major disappointment with a 44-60 record.

Mike Trout, the club’s other superstar, hasn’t played since July 12 due to a back injury. He is slated to start back-related exercises this week but isn’t ready to start swinging a bat.

Athletics right-hander Paul Blackburn (6-6, 4.15 ERA) draws the start on Thursday, and he will be aiming to halt a seven-start winless stretch. The 28-year-old is 0-4 with an 8.05 ERA during that span.

Blackburn, who was Oakland’s representative in the All-Star Game, was torched for 10 runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings by the Texas Rangers in his first start after the break. He did better on Saturday when he allowed five hits over five scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox in a no-decision.

Blackburn has a 2.38 ERA in 11 1/3 innings over two no-decisions against the Angels this season. Overall, he is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three career starts against Los Angeles.

Ohtani is 2-for-5 with a double and two strikeouts against Blackburn.

Angels right-hander Janson Junk (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is set to make his third appearance and second start of the season. He has given up five hits and one walk while striking out nine in six innings.

Junk, 26, fanned eight in five-plus scoreless innings while beating the Kansas City Royals on July 27. He gave up four hits and one walk.

–Field Level Media