ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Los Angeles Angels made their first trip back home since the MLB trade deadline with some new faces, and most notably still with their superstar player, Shohei Ohtani, despite trade rumors surrounding the two-way phenom.
Ohtani kicked off a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night with a relatively quiet night on the mound as he struck out four and allowed three hits across four innings before being replaced by José Soriano due to cramping in his right hand and fingers.
Despite his early departure from the mound, Ohtani continued his dominance at the plate with a monster home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to put the Angels up 3-1. It was Ohtani’s league-high 40th home run of the season, and it seemed to cap a gritty, but satisfying night for the Angels who watched their star dominate offensively by drawing two walks (one intentional), stealing a base and scoring a run.
Seattle answered back in stunning fashion in the ninth inning as second baseman Cade Marlowe swung for a grand slam off closer Carlos Estévez, marking his first blown save of the season and the Mariners escaped with a 5-3 victory.
The Mariners (57-52), who didn’t make a splash at the trade deadline in comparison to the Angels, moved ahead of Los Angeles (56-54) in the AL West for third place.
On the bright side for the Angels, losers of three straight: Ohtani said the cramping wouldn’t impact his pitching schedule.
“I felt like maybe I could throw another inning,” Ohtani said. “But I thought it would be best for the team to only hit. As of now my finger shouldn’t impact my schedule, or miss any starts.”
Instead of reveling in Ohtani’s star power and enjoying the good luck that the pitching issue wasn’t serious for the AL MVP frontrunner, Angels manager Phil Nevin had to explain what went wrong with his closer.
“Walking the first two hitters is dangerous, and I know he’s been there before and got back out of it,” Nevin said. “But he’s our guy, he’s been perfect all year. He’s been the only closer in baseball who’s been perfect all year. We wouldn’t be in our position, with everything in front of us if it wasn’t for Estévez. He’s taking it hard, sure. But just like great closers, he’s going to come out tomorrow and lead the ninth [inning]. He’s the guy who’s gonna get the ball. He’s ready to go.”
The Halos’ newcomers, C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk, made their home debuts Thursday after being traded to Los Angeles from Colorado on July 30.
For Cron, it’s a return to the Angels after being drafted by them in the first round in 2014, and then traded after four seasons. Cron made his lone All-Star appearance in 2022, and this season is batting .260 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI across 56 games.
“It feels good to be back,” Cron said. “There’s a lot of new faces, and some familiar ones, so it’s made the transition pretty easy. Seeing [Mike] Trout again, and a couple of teammates from the Rockies has been great, it’s a great fit and it’s been a very seamless transition.”
Cron witnessed Trout’s rise during his early years and is even more excited to witness Ohtani’s dominance.
“It’s been great [playing with Ohtani],” Cron said. “He just hits the ball so hard, it’s pretty cool being on deck and watching him at bat. He’s been unbelievable, I’m excited to watch more.”
Grichuk made his presence known instantly after the trade, with a home run in his Angels debut against the Atlanta Braves on July 31. Grichuk was also drafted by Los Angeles in 2009, one pick ahead of Trout. Grichuk never made a major league debut with Los Angeles, but looks forward to a second chance with the team.
“I’ve been looking forward to putting the Angels jersey in the big leagues since I’ve been drafted,” Grichuk said. “It took a little longer than expected but it’s been great. I’m just hoping to help contribute to some wins down the stretch. We obviously have a chance to make postseason here, I want to help get there and hopefully make some big plays on the defensive side.”
With their newest additions, and the continued dominance of their two-way superstar, the Halos look to make a hard push in the second half of the season to make their first postseason appearance since 2014. But after a nine-game road trip in which they went 5-4, they can’t seem to make that big leap, despite Ohtani’s presence.
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