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PREVIEW: Oakland Athletics host Angels in AL West clash

May 26, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) gets an infield hit in the sixth inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Bassitt and the Oakland Athletics will have to deal with the two-way sensation that is Shohei Ohtani when the American League West leaders open a four-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.

Ohtani padded his hitting stats with a single and a walk in Wednesday’s 9-8 home win over the Texas Rangers, lifting his season average to .270 with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs.

The A’s limited Ohtani to a double, a triple, a walk and one RBI in eight plate appearances in a three-game series in Anaheim last weekend. Oakland took two of three in a set in which Ohtani did not pitch.

Ohtani (1-0, 2.37) hasn’t pitched since last Wednesday, when he was pulled two outs into the fifth inning and moved to right field after having allowed two runs and five hits. He did not get a decision in an eventual 3-2 defeat.

The 26-year-old right-hander has made three starts in his career against the A’s, going 2-1 with a 5.54 ERA. He has struck out 18 in 13 innings.

At a point of his career when he did not bat on days he pitched, Ohtani made his first two big-league starts against the A’s, including his American debut in Oakland on April 1, 2018. He got the win that day, allowing three runs in six innings.

Ohtani has never gone head-to-head with one of the A’s hottest hitters, outfielder Seth Brown, whose two hits and two RBIs in Wednesday’s 6-3 home win over Seattle gave him six hits and eight RBIs in his last six games.

“This is his time,” A’s manager Bob Melvin proclaimed after the win, which snapped a three-game losing streak. “This is his first real extended chance to do the things he’s capable of doing at the big-league level. This is his best body of work here.”

Ohtani has never batted and pitched in the same game against the A’s, but he figures to do so in the series opener. He’s performed the double four times this season, getting at least one hit in each game and helping his own cause with a home run in a 7-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on April 4.

The lefty swinger had hit .297 with eight home runs in 118 at-bats against the A’s.

One of those homers came against Bassitt in 2019. It’s one of just three hits Ohtani has in 16 career at-bats (.188 average) against the right-hander.

Bassitt (4-2, 3.69) pitched one of Oakland’s two wins in Anaheim last weekend, limiting the Angels to two runs in a season-best 7 2/3 innings in a 6-2 win. It was his eighth straight start without a defeat, a stretch in which his ERA is just 3.26.

The 32-year-old has faced the Angels 10 times in his career, eight times as a starter, and gone 4-3 with a 4.67 ERA.

Bassitt won’t see injured Angels star Mike Trout (strained right calf) in the series, but he will see an Angels team that has won three in a row, including the 9-8 nail-biter Wednesday in which they nearly blew a 9-1 lead.

“We have to get the pitching to settle down,” manager Joe Maddon observed afterward. “We have to win 2-1, 3-1, 4-3 to get where we want to go.”

–Field Level Media