A’s fans get last chance to see Angels’ Ohtani this year

OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland Athletics fans will get to see Shohei Ohtani one last time in 2018 at the same venue at which everyone saw him for the first time this season when the Los Angeles Angels close out a three-game series on Thursday afternoon.

While Ohtani and the Angels look to win the season series from Oakland, the A’s (91-61) will be trying to avoid losing ground to the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays (85-66) in a suddenly tight race for the second wild-card playoff spot in the American League.

The A’s will take the field for the afternoon affair several hours before the Rays begin a four-game road series at Toronto. Tampa Bay has won four in a row, including Saturday and Sunday against the A’s to get the Rays back in the race.

While A’s fans surely will save most of their applause for the home club, no doubt they will shower some on Ohtani, the unique two-way talent whose first major league hit came on March 29 in Oakland, a single in his first at-bat against Kendall Graveman.

Three days later, Ohtani recorded his first big-league pitching win, also in Oakland, when he limited the A’s to three runs in six innings in a 7-4 win.

Almost six months later, Ohtani is finishing his rookie season only as a hitter, having torn the UCL in his right elbow while pitching on Sept. 2.

He completed the pitching portion of his season with a 4-2 record and 3.31 ERA.

The injury hasn’t slowed Ohtani’s bat. He has recorded hits in 11 of 14 games this month, including one in each of the first two games of the Oakland series.

He will take a .292 average, and a chance to hit .300, into the Angels’ final 10 games of the season.

With 327 plate appearances and 10 pitching starts, he is assured of being the first major-leaguer with that combination since Babe Ruth in 1919.

Ohtani has hit 6-for-23 (.261) against the A’s this season but went 0-for-3 against Thursday’s starter, right-hander Edwin Jackson, in an August game.

Jackson (5-3, 3.17) will be attempting to pitch the A’s to their 14th consecutive non-losing home series. Oakland has won 11 and tied two since getting swept in a three-gamer against Houston in June.

The A’s and Angels have split the first two games of their three-game set.

Jackson shut out the Angels for 7 1/3 innings in a 7-0 win in Los Angeles in August. It improved his lifetime record against the Angels to 5-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 13 games, including 10 starts.

Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (2-1, 3.98) is scheduled to pitch the series finale for the Angels.

He pitched an 8-3 win over the A’s in the opening series of the season, during which the Angels took three of four. Los Angeles has retained an edge in the seasons series all year, but now clings to just an 8-7 advantage.

In his career, Shoemaker has compiled a 6-2 record and 3.61 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) against Oakland.