Orioles tasked with solving Angels ace Shohei Ohtani

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After striking out a season-high 17 times on Sunday, the Baltimore Orioles face a daunting challenge when they open a four-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

They’ll face Shohei Ohtani (4-1, 2.74 ERA), who has 66 strikeouts — second most in the American League — in 46 innings. He has a 7.20 ERA in his one career start against the Orioles back in 2021.

In his last start, the right-hander held the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros to three runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in seven innings in the Angels’ 3-1 loss on Tuesday.

However, Ohtani made major league history against the Astros when he whiffed Jeremy Pena in the second inning for his 502nd strikeout, passing Hall of Famer Babe Ruth’s 501 strikeouts. Ruth and Ohtani are the lone players in major league history to throw 500 strikeouts and hit more than 100 homers.

Ohtani, who is hitting .287 with eight homers and 26 RBIs, has been one of the Angels’ few bright spots.

The Angels have dropped four of their past five games after falling 4-3 to the host Cleveland Guardians on Sunday. The Angels have lost six of their last eight games and have won just one of their past five series.

The Angels tied the Guardians 1-1 in the top of the eighth before Josh Naylor’s three-run homer in the bottom of the inning proved to be the difference. The Angels scored two runs in the ninth, including one on Ohtani’s single to center, but Brandon Drury grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

“I’m not going to let Jose Ramirez beat me,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said referring to the Guardians’ third baseman, who is hitting a team-high .285 with a .364 on-base percentage. “I said that before the series started, and I had my best against (Naylor) with where we’re at right there. I felt good about the matchup. He just got into another one.”

The Orioles are 4-2 during their 10-game homestand, taking two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays before doing the same against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who avoided being swept Sunday with a 4-0 win.

Baltimore mustered just six singles, including two by Cedric Mullins, and a double by Gunnar Henderson on Sunday, when they had just one runner advance past second base. The Orioles, who had their four-game winning streak halted, scored eight runs in the series.

The Orioles’ 17 strikeouts Sunday were 10 more than they had in the first two games of the series combined.

“That might be the best pitching performance of the season. That was a pitching clinic,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said about Pittsburgh starter Mitch Keller, who struck out 13. “He’s got four or five really plus pitches. We were 0-2 on every at-bat, it felt like.”

The Orioles will turn to rookie Grayson Rodriguez (2-0, 5.08) for his first career meeting against the Angels.

The right-hander is coming off his best start, holding the major league-leading Tampa Bay Rays to two runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and two walks in a 5-2 win Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

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