Rangers look to slow down Ohtani, Angels hot start

The new-look Los Angeles Angels have been impressive during the first week and a half of the 2018 season and look to keep up that momentum against the Texas Rangers on Monday in the opener of a three-game set at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

The Angels will send right-hander Garrett Richards (1-0, 5.06 ERA) to the mound against Rangers right-hander Doug Fister (1-1, 3.12 ERA).

The Angels (7-3) won for the fourth time in five games when they handled Oakland 6-1 on Sunday behind two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani‘s seven scoreless innings and Mike Trout‘s two hits (including his third home run of the year), two runs and two RBIs.

Ohtani (2-0) had a perfect game for 6 1/3 innings in his second start of the year and his major league career for Los Angeles, eventually surrendering one hit and one walk while striking out 12.

“(Ohtani) has been challenged at a young age, so he’s seasoned to what a lot of players have to get acclimated to,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s been playing at a very high level of baseball from a very young age and had to grow into what he is now.

“Shohei, he’s very confident, he works very, very hard at what he needs to do.”

Texas hopes to turn around the slow start to its season in the three-game home series with the Angels, but will have to be better than it was in a 7-4 loss to Toronto on Sunday. Rangers ace Cole Hamels (1-2) surrendered seven runs (five earned) and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings while striking out five and issuing two bases on balls.

Hamels gave up four runs in the first inning on home runs by the Blue Jays‘ Steve Pearce (on the game’s first pitch) and Kendrys Morales, and Texas never recovered from that early deficit.

“They attacked early on the fastball and were very aggressive,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said of the Blue Jays, who had eight of their 11 hits against Hamels. “Cole is a great thinking pitcher. He knows how to pitch, and he has command and feel. They had a good approach on him early and he made a couple of adjustments.”

The Rangers got two singles from Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo‘s two-run homer among their nine hits off six Blue Jays pitchers on Sunday. Texas (4-7) has not won consecutive games this season and is 2-0-1 in series so far in 2018.

The Rangers left 11 men on base and had the tying run at the plate in Elvis Andrus after scoring a run in the eighth.

Richards, who was the Angels’ Opening Day starter, picked up his first win of the season on April 4, allowing two earned runs, one hit and four walks while striking out nine in 5 2/3 innings in a 13-2 blowout victory over the Cleveland Indians.

A two-run homer surrendered to Jose Ramirez was the lone blemish on a solid outing for Richards and was the only hit he gave up in Wednesday’s win.

Richards has a 3.56 ERA in his 100 career starts but has thrown just 64 1/3 innings in the past two seasons because of an assortment of injuries.

Fister will make his third start of the season for the Rangers. He will be working on regular four days’ rest after suffering his first loss in the Rangers’ 6-2 setback on Wednesday night in Oakland and upon surrendering five runs (two earned) and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Fister has gone 3-4 with a 2.90 ERA (28 ER/87.0 IP) in 13 career starts against the Angels and has allowed three runs or less in 11 of 13 career starts vs. Los Angeles, including eight straight outings dating to June 14, 2011.