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Angels’ Shohei Ohtani can build MVP case against Astros

Sportsnaut
Aug 31, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) reacts after hitting a three run home run against the New York Yankees during the sixth inning at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani will be out to build on his growing legacy Saturday in the second game of a three-game series against the visiting Houston Astros in Anaheim, Calif.

The two-way star hit his 30th home run of the season on Wednesday, a three-run blast against Gerritt Cole of the New York Yankees in a 4-2 Angels win. He will be the Angels starting pitcher on Saturday.

The left-handed hitter became the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit 30 home runs and record 10 wins in the same season. Ohtani became the first Japanese-born player with multiple 30-homer seasons.

“I’m simply honored, happy and humbled to hear that,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “But I just want to stay healthy and finish strong.”

Ohtani said the American League Most Valuable Player Award race with the Yankees’ Aaron Judge is giving him added motivation as he tries to become first back-to-back winner since Miguel Cabrera in 2012-13.

“It definitely leads to motivation to do better and try to go for that hardware,” Ohtani said. “It’s something I think about. But for the most part, I take it game by game and at-bat by at-bat. At the end of the day, we’ll count it all up.”

Ohtani was 1-for-4 with a walk Friday in the 4-2 loss to the Astros. He is batting .268 with 20 doubles, 82 RBIs, 75 runs and 11 stolen bases in 128 games.

In 22 starts as a pitcher, Ohtani is 11-8 with a 2.67 ERA and has 176 strikeouts in 128 innings. He is the only player in major-league history with at least 30 homers and 100 strikeouts in a season, which he also accomplished last season when he hit 46 homers and struck out 156.

In eight career starts against the Astros, he is 2-3 with a 4.21 ERA. This season, Ohtani is 2-1 with a 1.08 ERA against Houston.

He will face right-hander Luis Garcia (11-8, 4.14 ERA). Garcia is 2-2 with a 3.61 ERA in nine career outings (seven starts) against the Angels. He is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA, in two starts against them this season.

Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez was scratched from the lineup Friday with what was described as “hand discomfort.” He has missed four consecutive games with a sore hand.

He was on the injured list last month with right-hand inflammation, and Astros manager Dusty Baker said in the past few days that Alvarez’s left hand is now bothering him.

Right-hander Hunter Brown and catcher Yainer Diaz were added by the Astros for September, and Diaz got the start Friday in place of Alvarez at DH.

It was the major league debut for Diaz, who was 0-for-3 with an RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the fifth.

“It feels great,” Diaz said Friday before the game. “It feels a little bit important, just with what the team has been able to do all season and me being called up and asked to help to contribute to this. That’s what I’m here to do, contribute to the team in whatever way I can.”

Diaz, 23, hit 306 with an .892 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 486 minor-league plate appearances this season between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugar Land.

“He’s still learning how to catch,” Baker said. “He’s been on the fast track. …Now I don’t have to save the other catcher in case the other catcher gets hurt.”

–Field Level Media