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Disappointing Angels to send Shohei Ohtani against Braves

Sportsnaut
Jul 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA;  American League pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) of the Los Angeles Angels finishes batting practice before the 2022 All Star game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Two-way star Shohei Ohtani will make his first career appearance at Atlanta on Friday when the visiting Los Angeles Angels and Braves open the second half with a three-game series.

Ohtani (9-4, 2.38 ERA) will face veteran Atlanta right-hander Charlie Morton (5-4, 4.45) in the opener.

The Braves are 56-38 and trail the New York Mets by 2 1/2 games in the National League East. The Angels are 39-53, have lost eight of their last nine and stand 21 games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West.

It will be the Angels’ first visit to Atlanta’s Truist Park. The Braves were playing at Turner Field the last time they came to town in 2014. Los Angeles leads the all-time series 8-7 and are 3-3 at Atlanta.

Ohtani started the All-Star Game as the American League’s designated hitter and batted leadoff. He singled and drew a walk in his two plate appearances before being replaced. He was also named to the team as a pitcher but did not take the mound.

The Japanese star continues to set milestones. In his last start on July 13, when he allowed one run and struck out 12 against Houston, Ohtani became the fourth pitcher all-time to go 6-0 with 58-plus strikeouts and two or fewer earned runs in a six-game span. The others — Johan Santana in 2004, R.A. Dickey in 2012 and Clayton Kershaw in 2014 — all won the Cy Young Award.

Ohtani also joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers in team history to record 10-plus strikeouts in four consecutive appearances. Ryan had six streaks of that length, including a team record seven-game streak.

Ohtani has never faced the Braves.

Morton is coming off a poor performance against the New York Mets on July 13. He allowed five runs on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts over five innings. He was touched for three home runs, matching a career high, in the 7-3 loss. That broke a streak of five straight starts where Morton had allowed two runs or fewer.

“I didn’t think he was real sharp,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “(The Mets) are more difficult to pitch to because they’re kind of scrappy. They’re not just giving at-bats away and just trying to hit all homers.”

Morton has made nine career starts against the Angels, going 4-1 with a 4.34 ERA. He last faced them in 2019 while a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Los Angeles center fielder Mike Trout has been battling back issues and has not played since July 12. He was hitting .270 with 24 home runs and 51 RBIs before withdrawing from the All-Star Game because of the problem.

“It’s a little concerning,” Trout said. “I’m staying positive. It’s just frustrating. I don’t know what really sparked it. I’ve taken a lot of swings over the past three weeks, but I can’t really pinpoint it and it’s just, it is what it is.”

The Braves could get some additional help in the bullpen soon. Veteran right-hander Kirby Yates, who had Tommy John surgery in March 2021 while playing for Toronto, began his rehab with the Florida Complex League Braves on July and pitched one scoreless inning with two strikeouts against FCL Tampa Bay on July 16.

–Field Level Media