Fortunes swing wildly in AL West as athletics win, but Astros, Rangers and Angels develop pitching problems

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It was a good day for the A’s, a very good day anyway you think, and it would have been even without a victory over the angels.

Oakland did take that victory, however, 6-4, getting five points from the Angels return, Angels returning prospect Shohei Ohtani in the first inning, then hanging on until Liam Hendriks could shut it down.

Baseball is all about starting to pitch, and Oakland’s competition in the American Western League has been beaten in that regard. All of the Western competitors except the A’s have bad news about one of its stars.

The Astros, who have already dealt with the loss of 20-game winner Gerrit Cole, transferred to the Yankees during the offseason, have lost Justin Verlander for the immediate future, possibly for the season.

The Rangers watched Corey Kluber leave Sunday’s game against the Rockies with a shoulder problem after a set.

And the Angels saw Ohtani, make his first start since September 2018, face six hitters, give up three hits and three walks, leaving no outs and giving up five runs. Known for his high speed launches, Ohtani hit 94.95mph several times, but was mostly in the 91mph range, and with almost no control.

Meanwhile, as the A’s have starter AJ Puk on the injured list, he resumes throwing and Jesus Luzardo looked dominant in a backup appearance on Saturday and is likely within 10 days of a return to the squad. starting rotation.

“The last time we saw (Ohtani, in 2018) he was throwing a little hard and there were more splitters,” A manager Bob Melvin said after his club went 2-1. “Maybe he’s not quite there yet.

Speaking to the Angels media, Ohtani said he was not worried about his speed, suggesting it would come as he got stronger.

“Looking back, I felt like I couldn’t throw with all my strength,” Ohtani said. “It’s one of the things that I regret.”

He opened the game by giving up a single to Marcus Semien, then walked three times in a row, forcing a run. That brought in Mark Canha, who had never faced the Japanese right-hander who plays in the outfield or as a DH when he’s not throwing.

“I watched a movie,” Canha said. “He didn’t throw the splitter as much as I thought he would. And his speed was down a bit. There was a word that it was not built for what it was in the past. It was kind of one of those things you just had to see.

Canha went to the plateau ready to swing on the first pitch. He did not do it. Instead, he worked the full count and then drove a two-run single down center right. Robbie Grossman followed with an RBI hit and a double Vimael Machin went 5-0 and led to the exit of Ohtani.

Early reports said Houston would be without Verlander for the season with elbow issues. However, manager Dusty Baker tempered that, claiming the Astros ace had forearm strain, would be arrested for a few weeks and then reassessed. Verlander himself confirmed this assessment on Twitter.

The Astros, who won 107 games last year, 10 more than the second A’s, will find their West title defense much more difficult without Verlander and Cole, who won 41 games between them.

Kluber was supposed to consolidate a modest Ranger rotation. But after a scoreless first inning in which he threw just 18 shots, he had to be substituted. Manager Chris Woodward did not offer a post-match update, but indicated the organization was concerned it could be serious. The Rangers can’t afford to stay long.

Kluber, who likely would have faced the A’s when the Rangers arrived in Oakland after the A’s next road trip, felt tension in his early throws, according to reports, and it only got worse as he went along. as the sleeve progressed. He faced just three hitters.

Follow track insider John Hickey on Twitter: @ JHickey3

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