Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda is expected to face fellow countryman Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels for the first time in their major league careers Friday night in the series opener at Angel Stadium.
The Dodgers (47-39) have won four in a row to climb eight games over .500 for the first time this season. They moved two percentage points ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks (48-40) for first place in the National League West after Arizona lost its series opener at the San Diego Padres 6-3 on Thursday night.
The Angels (44-44) completed a 10-game road trip with a 4-1 loss against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night [url=http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-jonathan-drouin-jersey]Jonathan Drouin Jersey[/url] , dropping 12 games behind the Mariners for the second wild card from the American League. They’ll try to avoid falling below .500 for the first time since losing their season opener.
Ohtani, who turned 24 on Thursday, is in his first major league season after playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters the previous five years. He began this season as a right-handed pitcher and designated hitter and was having success as a two-way player until he was placed on the disabled list June 8 with a grade 2 sprain of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
He received stem-cell therapy and a platelet-rich-plasma injection to help heal the ligament without surgery, and was activated Tuesday before the Angels opened the three-game series against the Mariners.
Maeda, 30, pitched in Japan for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp from 2008-15 and faced Ohtani a few times, but told the Southern California News Group earlier this week that he considers this a new challenge.
“The image I had about him as a hitter has changed, so my approach to the way I pitch to him will change,” Maeda said through an interpreter. “I’m just going to approach it as if I’m facing a new hitter.”
Maeda (5-5, 3.36) has pitched well since mid-May [url=http://www.officialcanadiensprostore.com/authentic-adidas-max-pacioretty-jersey]Max Pacioretty Jersey[/url] , when he didn’t allow a run in back-to-back starts against the Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies.
His past two outings have been nearly as good.
Maeda blanked the Chicago Cubs for seven innings in a 2-1 victory June 25, and then allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits over seven innings in a 3-1 loss to the Rockies on Saturday.
Maeda has made two career starts against the Angels and is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA. He threw seven shutout innings in his last appearance against Los Angeles on June 27, 2017 and the Dodgers won 4-0 at Dodger Stadium.
The starting lineup the Angels used against Seattle right-hander Mike Leake on Wednesday is a combined 3-for-25 off Maeda. Angels catcher Martin Maldonado is hitless in eight at-bats against Maeda, which may open the door for rookie Jose Briceno to get his first start since Sunday.
Angels rookie right-hander Jaime Barria was originally scheduled to start the series opener against the Dodgers, but was moved up to Thursday after left-hander Tyler Skaggs went on the 10-day disabled list with a right adductor strain, becoming the 10th starter for the Angels to go on the DL this season.
Felix Pena (1-0, 3.71 ERA) will make the start for the Angels and try to continue his transition from relief pitcher to starter.
He has made two career appearances against the Dodgers, both out of the bullpen covering three scoreless innings overall.
The adjustments have come both ways and Pittsburgh Pirates rookie outfielder Austin Meadows is doing better at them than opposing pitchers.
Through the first three games of a series against Arizona that concludes Sunday at PNC Park, Meadows has gotten the better of Diamondbacks pitching. Despite going 0-for-4 Saturday, he’s 5-for-13 in the series with a run [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-t.j.-lang-jersey]T.J. Lang Jersey[/url] , a walk and a stolen base.
In fact, Meadows told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that pitchers are only adjusting to him “a little bit” after his early success.
“They’re throwing a little more of their off-speed early in the count for strikes,” he said. “For me, it’s just going out there and having the same mentality I did when I got here. Having that fastball-first mentality and adjusting to certain things and staying in my zone and not swinging at their pitches.”
Meadows, 23, a 2013 first-round draft pick who is healthy after injury setbacks, started on fire after his call-up from Triple-A Indianapolis on May 18, but going from .409 to .330 is probably just leveling off to something closer to what he can maintain.
He has made 25 starts — he batted leadoff Saturday in a 7-2 Pirates loss — divided among all three outfield spots. He has hits in 20 of the 25 starts, including 12 of the past 14, with six doubles [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-frank-ragnow-jersey]Frank Ragnow Jersey[/url] , two triples, five homers, 11 RBIs, 14 runs and five stolen bases.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle expects that opposing teams will use whatever resources they have to try to shift the advantage to the pitchers.
“We’ve seen a punch-back already,” said Hurdle, who doesn’t sound as if he expects opponents to fully solve Meadows any time soon.
“If you’re not impressed by Meadows’ at-bats, you need to go watch another sport right now,” he said.
Pittsburgh (36-40) has lost four straight and five of six. Arizona (43-33) has won three in a row, five of six, and will go for a four-game series sweep Sunday.
Arizona right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-1 [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-kerryon-johnson-jersey]Kerryon Johnson Jersey[/url] , 2.94 ERA) is scheduled to face Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams (6-4, 4.00).
Buchholz has three no-decisions in a row. His most recent start last Sunday was one of the Diamondbacks’ most frustrating losses.
He allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 innings and Arizona went into the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead before the New York Mets came back against closer Brad Boxberger to win 5-3.
“We got some very solid pitching, and Buccholz handed it off to the bullpen,” manager Torey Lovullo said.
Buchholz was subdued but “felt pretty good for the most part.”
Buchholz has been strong on the road with no wins to show for it — 0-1 with a 2.12 ERA and a .180 average against in three starts.
He is 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates.
Williams is coming off a gem. He pitched seven one-hit, scoreless innings and struck out seven Monday in a 1-0 win over Milwaukee. It was his first win since May 15.
Against the Diamondbacks, Williams is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in three career starts. That includes a 13-8 road loss on June 12 when he gave up six runs (one earned) in the first inning and two in the third.
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