Preview: Rays’ road trip heads west for first glimpse of Shohei Ohtani, Angels

TV: FOX Sports Sun

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.

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The Los Angeles Angels decided during the offseason that C.J. Cron was no longer in their plans, so they traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays in February for a player to be named later.

Cron didn’t let the trade diminish his morale, and a full-time opportunity with the Rays has boosted his production.

Cron brings a .289 batting average, 10 home run, 26 RBIs and a nine-game hitting streak into the first game against his former team Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

Cron, a first-round pick of the Angels in 2011, has homered in each of the past two games to help Tampa Bay (19-22) sweep the Kansas City Royals and bring a three-game winning streak into their four-game series against the Angels (25-18). He also has reached base in a career-high 22 games.

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“I’m glad he’s getting hot at the right time to go into Anaheim,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters after a 5-3 victory in Kansas City on Wednesday.

Cron hit 16 home runs each of the past three seasons for the Angels, but was unable to be a consistent presence in the lineup. The arrival of Japanese rookie Shohei Ohtani was expected to take a much bigger bite out of Cron’s opportunities at designated hitter this season, and veterans Albert Pujols and Luis Valbuena figured to anchor first base.

“Just being in the lineup is nice,” Cron said. “I’m able to make the necessary adjustments that you have to at this level to be successful.”

On Thursday, Cron will be up against Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who has been the most consistent starter for the Angels this season.

Skaggs (3-2, 3.07 ERA) has allowed two runs or fewer in four straight starts and seven of eight overall this season. He hasn’t been supported by the offense or the bullpen in recent outings, however.

He gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the New York Yankees on April 29 and took the defeat in the 2-1 loss at home. Skaggs then held the Seattle Mariners to two runs over 5 1/3 innings before leaving with a 4-2 lead, but the Angels would blow three leads before losing 9-8 in 11 innings May 5.

Most recently, he allowed two runs over six innings Friday against the Minnesota Twins and again departed with a 4-2 lead, but the Twins scored three runs in the top of the ninth to win 5-4.

Skaggs’ only career appearance against the Rays was a start in 2014, when he gave up eight hits and five runs in six innings and did not get a decision.

The Angels will face a former All-Star pitcher for the fourth straight game Thursday when they take on Rays right-hander Chris Archer (2-3, 5.64 ERA).

They beat Houston Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. on Monday, blew a late lead after chasing Gerrit Cole on Tuesday and were shut out by Justin Verlander on Wednesday.

“We hit some balls hard and had some opportunities,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after the 2-0 loss to Verlander and the Astros. “We just couldn’t get that one hit with guys in scoring position.”

Archer, an AL All-Star selection in 2015 and 2017, is off to a rough start, but has sprinkled in enough quality performances to demonstrate he’s still in his prime.

In his most recent start, Archer took the loss after giving up six runs, seven hits and three walks over seven innings in a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Orioles on Saturday.

He has been good against the Angels in his career, too, owning a 5-1 record and 2.55 ERA in seven starts.