Angels Host A’s in Finale, Could Say Goodbye to Shohei Ohtani

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani (17) fist bumps Angels employees as he heads onto the field to receive the Angels team MVP Award before the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium.

The Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics will put seasons to forget behind them on Sunday as the bottom two American League West teams finish the 2023 campaign in Anaheim, Calif.

But Angels fans and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani might also get a last look at each other with Ohtani in the home dugout.

The Angels presented their postseason awards before Saturday’s game vs. the A’s, and AL MVP candidate Ohtani — wearing a red Angels hoodie over his home uniform — received his third straight team MVP award in a ceremony in front of the mound.

Angels fans roared their appreciation. Many were wearing paper “kabutos” — given to fans as a promotional item — to replicate the Japanese samurai helmet that Ohtani gifted to his teammates to wear for home-run celebrations in the dugout.

Ohtani had surgery on Sept. 19 to repair a second tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament; the first surgery, in 2018, required Tommy John surgery. He also suffered right oblique tightness that prevented him from hitting before his season was declared over.

Ohtani still finished the season leading the Angels in all major offensive categories (.304 average, 44 homers, 95 runs batted in, 20 stolen bases, 1.066 OPS), while also going 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts as a pitcher.

He is the only Angels pitcher to post double-digit wins.

The Japanese superstar spent Saturday’s game with his teammates in the dugout.

“I’m on the field and you can feel it,” Angels manager Phil Nevin told reporters about Ohtani’s presence. “Just as you do each night when he takes the field, that’s what he has around him, the aura. He brings a different energy to anywhere he’s at. It was good to see him.”

After the A’s rallied for a 7-3 victory Saturday, the teams are 6-6 in the season series and the A’s would relish coming out on top. It would be their only winning record against a divisional opponent.

Oakland right-hander Joe Boyle (2-0) got the win Saturday after throwing six no-hit innings to start the game.

“It’s gonna be fun going into spring training next year and watching his growth,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said of Boyle. “It was fun to watch, a real highlight.”

A’s left-hander JP Sears (5-13, 4.49 ERA) will make the final start of the season. He’s 1-1 with a 4.60 ERA in three career starts against the Angels but got hit hard in his only start in Anaheim on April 27, when he allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Nevin had not announced a starter as of Sunday morning, but Jaime Barria (2-6, 5.68), Jose Suarez (1-3, 8.51), Carson Fulmer (0-1, 5.40) and Jimmy Herget (2-4, 4.50) could provide multiple innings.

The Angels are 72-89 after putting up a 16-38 record since Aug. 1. The club’s last 90-loss season since 2000 came in 2019.

The A’s are 50-111, the second-worst mark in franchise history since the 117-loss 1916 Philadelphia Athletics.

With team playoff goals long gone, some personal milestones could be reached on Sunday.

Oakland’s Esteury Ruiz is tied for Kenny Lofton’s 1992 AL record for rookie steals with 66, while the Angels’ Logan O’Hoppe is tied for the team’s home-run record with 14 by a rookie catcher with Bengie Molina (2000).

Angels rookie Nolan Schanuel’s on-base streak to start a career is at 29, and if it reaches 30, Schanuel will break a tie for the third-longest such streak with Enos Slaughter (1938), behind only Alvin Davis (47 games in 1984) and Truck Hannah (38 in 1918), according to Elias Sports.