LEADING OFF: Ohtani road show to Cleveland; Astros optimism

Sports

Los Angeles Angels catcher Max Stassi, from left, Brandon Marsh and Shohei Ohtani (17) celebrate after beating the Detroit Tigers 13-10 in a baseball game in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A look at what’s happening around the majors on Friday:

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WHAT WILL SHOHEI DO NEXT?

The Shohei Ohtani road show heads to Cleveland after the two-way superstar thrilled opposing crowds in Detroit.

Ohtani’s Los Angeles Angels — whose playoff chances are slim at one game over .500 — will play two games at the Indians’ home ballpark before both teams head to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League Classic on Sunday night.

After that, LA travels to Baltimore for a three-game series against the major league-worst Orioles that’s expected to include Ohtani’s next mound start — perhaps a rare opportunity for Baltimore fans to feel some buzz.

Against Detroit, Ohtani had his longest mound start of the season, winning his fourth consecutive start with an eight-inning performance on Wednesday night. He also hit a towering, 430-foot homer — his major league-leading 40th of the season — that Tigers fans waiting for Miguel Cabrera to hit No. 500 couldn’t help but admire.

Ohtani followed it up with a 2-for-3 day as the Angels rallied from an eight-run deficit to beat the Tigers on Thursday.

OPTIMISM IN HOUSTON

Astros manager Dusty Baker has reasons to feel good about his AL West-leading club even after an uninspired seven-game trip.

Houston went 3-4 on the road against the Angels and Royals and begins a weeklong homestand on Friday by hosting division rival Seattle. The Astros lead Oakland by 2 1/2 games, which hasn’t escaped Baker’s notice.

“I’ve been scoreboard watching every day,” Baker said. “Scoreboard watching is something I do between innings when I’m not thinking about what to do. We’re just looking forward to the finish line. We have a ways to go, and we haven’t played our best ball yet.”

One thing that’s making Baker sanguine about the future is having Aledmys Díaz in the lineup. Díaz went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, including the go-ahead single in the 10th inning of a 6-3 win at Kansas City on Thursday.

“You can tell what (Díaz) means to this club (by looking at) the six weeks he was out,” Baker said.

SUB-BASEMENT

The major league-worst Baltimore Orioles haven’t even come within two runs of a win in the past week.

The Orioles dropped their 15th straight game on Thursday, falling 7-2 to the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. And most of them haven’t been close.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Orioles are the first team since 1900 to lose 15 straight games by multiple runs. The closest Baltimore got was a 6-4 loss to Detroit on Aug. 12.

The Orioles have been outscored 138-42 during the skid, allowing an average of 9.2 runs per game.

After dropping four at Tampa Bay by scores of 9-2, 10-0, 8-4 and 7-2, Baltimore hosts another first-place team for a three-game series this weekend: NL-East winning Atlanta.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had the worst record in the majors for much of the season, but Baltimore now owns that distinction. Arizona is coming off a three-game sweep of Philadelphia and has won six of seven overall.

OCTOBER PREVIEW

Brandon Lowe knows this weekend may not be the last time the Rays face the Chicago White Sox in 2021.

The AL Central leaders visit the AL East leaders for a three-game series starting Friday.

“This is going to be kind of what we’re looking at postseason-wise, I feel like,” Lowe said. “You know the White Sox are going to make it, we feel like we’re going to make it. I think the games are going to be a little bit tougher, it’s going to be a little bit lower-scoring ballgames but it’s going to be a hard-fought battle for the whole series.”

Tampa Bay has won 11 of 14, and perhaps a playoff preview could lure a few more fans to Tropicana Field. In their four-game sweep of Baltimore, the Rays drew a total of 22,754 paying customers — an average of 5,689 per game.

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