The good news for the Mariners is that Shohei Ohtani isn’t scheduled to take the mound when the Los Angeles Angels wrap up the unofficial first half of the season with a three-game series starting Friday in Seattle.
The bad news?
The Mariners will still have to pitch to Ohtani, the two-way sensation who leads the major leagues in home runs.
Ohtani hit his 32nd of the season Wednesday, breaking Hideki Matsui’s record for a Japanese-born player, and the All-Star break doesn’t come until next week.
“Thirty-two home runs in a season is just a passing point for a hitter like Shohei,” Matsui said. “I was once considered a long ball hitter in the majors, but I believe that he truly is a long ball hitter. Furthermore, he is an amazing pitcher. He exceeds what is considered conventional for a major league player and there is no one else like him.”
With three-time American League MVP Mike Trout on the 60-day injured list with a strained right calf and veteran sluggers Anthony Rendon (strained left hamstring) and Justin Upton (lower back tightness) on the 10-day IL, Ohtani has helped pick up the slack.
He’s hit 15 homers over his past 20 games and will participate not only in the Home Run Derby next week in Denver but will likely also play both ways in the All-Star Game.
“We’re talking about a special baseball player,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m really curious to find out what he’s going to do in the second half. Because we’ll have Mike (Trout) sitting back there, too.”
The Angels are scheduled to start right-hander Alex Cobb (6-3, 4.60 ERA) in the series opener. Cobb is 4-4 with a 6.41 ERA in 10 career starts against Seattle. He defeated the Mariners 12-5 on June 5 in Anaheim, Calif., allowing five runs on just three hits in seven innings.
The Mariners are set to go with Marco Gonzales (1-5, 5.82), who will be seeking his first victory since April 15. Gonzales, who spent five weeks on the injured list with a left forearm strain and missed another start while on the paternity list, is 8-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 15 career starts against the Angels.
The Mariners were one of the finalists in the Ohtani sweepstakes before he signed with the Angels and came to the United States for the 2018 season.
“The things he’s able to do on a baseball field are fascinating,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told The Seattle Times. “I wish he wasn’t in our division and we didn’t have to see him 19 times, but he’s one of the most talented baseball players I’ve ever seen. And if you consider what he does on the mound and in the batter’s box, he’s maybe the most talented player.”
While the Angels had Thursday off, the Mariners defeated the New York Yankees 4-0 as rookie Logan Gilbert and fellow right-handers Paul Sewald and Kendall Graveman combined on a one-hitter. Kyle Seager, Dylan Moore and Mitch Haniger homered for Seattle.
–Field Level Media