Angels present tough test for skidding D-backs

Field Level Media

June 11, 2021 at 12:50 am.

The good news for the Arizona Diamondbacks is they’re coming home after losing their past 19 road games.

The bad news is they have to face Shohei Ohtani and a red-hot Los Angeles Angels offense in the opener of the three-game series on Friday night in Phoenix.

The Angels are coming off a three-game sweep of the visiting Kansas City Royals and have won five of six overall.

Los Angeles has totaled 39 runs over its past five games, even with three-time American League MVP Mike Trout still rehabbing from a calf injury that has kept him out since May 17.

“There are a lot of little subplots coming together and making for this to be a pretty good moment right now,” manager Joe Maddon said after the Angels’ 6-1 win over the Royals on Wednesday night that completed the sweep.

With Ohtani scheduled to start on the mound Friday, he also will be in the batting order.

Ohtani (2-1, 2.76 ERA) has strung together five consecutive solid starts on the mound and pounded 17 home runs while driving in 44 runs on the season.

He will face an Arizona offense that has been shut out in two of the past three games and eight times overall this season. The Diamondbacks have lost seven games in a row overall and 30 of their past 35.

Diamondbacks assistant general manager Mike Fitzgerald told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Wednesday that the players continue to play hard for manager Torey Lovullo, but the frustration level is “very high.”

“This is such a fine game of skill where trying harder doesn’t seem to reward you all the time,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s evident that these guys still put a lot of trust in Torey and are still very engaged in the messages he is trying to send.”

Ohtani has never pitched against Arizona. He has a single in two at-bats in his major league career against the Diamondbacks.

He most recently limited the Seattle Mariners to two runs and four hits in six innings on June 4 and earned the win as the Angels prevailed 3-2. More impressive, he struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter.

It was a good start to June for Ohtani after an unrewarding month of May on the mound.

Despite posting a 2.38 ERA in four starts, Ohtani was felled by a lack of run support and went 0-1 in May.

Arizona’s Friday starter Merrill Kelly, is hoping to end a personal losing streak as well. He will face the Angels for the first time.

Kelly (2-6, 5.12 ERA) is 0-4 in his past seven starts, though he’s lowered his ERA from 6.33 in that span.

Arizona has combined to score 10 runs while Kelly has been in the game in his past six outings, a span of 37 2/3 innings.

Kelly’s best chance to win in that stretch came on May 26 against the visiting San Francisco Giants, when he departed with the Diamondbacks leading 4-2 after six innings. The Giants went on to win 5-4, however. another setback in a disappointing season.

“We have to acknowledge where our feet are and our feet aren’t in a great spot right now based on the (number of games) that we’ve played,” Fitzgerald said.