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Perry Minasian gets Joe Maddon’s frustration; Angels beat Astros

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Angels general manager Perry Minasian sits at Angel Stadium before his introductory news conference in November.
(Angels Baseball)

The Angels look to close out their series against the Houston Astros on a high note and end their six-game losing streak.

Jack Mayfield keeps making his ex-team pay in Angels’ win over Astros

Angels' Jack Mayfield is tagged out at home by Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado while trying to score.
Angels’ Jack Mayfield, top, is tagged out at home by Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado after Jose Rojas was safe at first on a fielding error by second baseman Jose Altuve during the sixth inning Thursday at Angel Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Houston Astros are doing just fine without Jack Mayfield, the 30-year-old infielder who was released after 2020, their potent lineup and deep pitching staff carrying them to the verge of their fifth American League West title in six years.

But that didn’t stop Mayfield from leaving his former team a forget-me-not bouquet of big hits this week, the capper a tiebreaking two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning of Thursday night’s 3-2 win over the Astros in Angel Stadium.

Mayfield hit a solo homer in Tuesday night’s 10-5 loss, and his three-run double keyed a five-run seventh inning in Wednesday night’s 9-5, 12-inning loss. Thursday night, his clutch hit helped the Angels end a six-game losing streak.

With the score tied 1-1 and two on in the sixth, Mayfield drove a double into the left-field corner off Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr., to score Shohei Ohtani, who had walked with one out and stole second, and Jared Walsh, who drew a two-out walk.

Mayfield, whom the Angels claimed off waivers from Seattle on June 13, also doubled with one out in the eighth, his fourth extra-base hit in three games. He has 10 homers, 14 doubles and 31 RBIs in 66 games with the Angels.

“The guy is a survivor,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Mayfield, who signed with the Astros as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and reached the big leagues in 2019. “There’s precedent for players like him. Rex Hudler is an example. The guy shows up every day. He’s a good baseball player.”

Austin Warren threw 11/3 innings of scoreless relief, Mike Mayers threw a scoreless eighth and Raisel Iglesias notched his 33rd save despite giving up Jason Castro’s pinch-hit, two-out solo homer in the ninth. Jose Altuve singled, but Iglesias struck out Jose Siri for the final out.

Angels right-hander Alex Cobb delivered his second strong start since coming off the injured list last week, giving up one earned run and four hits, striking out four and walking three for a no-decision.

Cobb, acquired from Baltimore on Feb. 2, was having a decent season through four months, overcoming a brief blister issue in early May to go 7-3 with a 3.82 ERA in his first 15 starts, striking out 84 and walking 26 in 772/3 innings.

The 33-year-old sinker-ball specialist was sidelined because of right-wrist inflammation on July 30 and missed six weeks, returning on Sept. 16 to blank the American League Central-winning Chicago White Sox on two hits through five innings in a 9-3 victory.

Cobb, in the final year of a four-year, $57-million deal he signed with the Orioles before 2018, followed that up with a superb start against another division winner, retiring the first nine batters he faced on 34 pitches and escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth.

Siri and Alex Bregman reached on one-out singles, and Kyle Tucker walked to load the bases for Houston in the fourth, but Cobb struck out Yuli Gurriel looking at a 93-mph sinker and got the dangerous Carlos Correa to ground to Angels shortstop Luis Rengifo for an inning-ending fielder’s choice.

The Angels went down in order against McCullers in each of the first three innings before nicking the right-hander for a run in the fourth.

Brandon Marsh led off with a single to center, Ohtani walked, Marsh took third on Phil Gosselin’s fielder’s-choice grounder and scored on Walsh’s sacrifice fly to deep right for a 1-0 lead.

Cobb got the first two outs in the sixth before walking Tucker and Gurriel and giving up an RBI single to center to Correa that tied the score 1-1. Warren replaced Cobb and got Chas McCormick to ground out to shortstop.

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Angels GM Perry Minasian agrees with Joe Maddon: ‘We need good players’

Angels general manager Perry Minasian speaks during his introductory news conference in November.
(Angels Baseball)

The social-media reaction to Joe Maddon’s pointed comments about the need for major rotation upgrades next season was that the Angels manager was trying to send a message to general manager Perry Minasian and owner Arte Moreno. Minasian said no such messages are necessary.

“I may not win some kind of academic decathlon, but I’m not an idiot,” Minasian said Thursday. “The guy has won a lot. He knows what it takes to win. I didn’t think it was anything earth-shattering. I did receive a couple of text messages, but I didn’t get what the big deal was. We need good players. Of course.”

Maddon expressed frustration with another September filled with meaningless games and nightly auditions for young players, saying the club needs “to get guys who are ready to win right now in that rotation in order to get to where we want to be.”

One day after the Angels were officially eliminated from the postseason hunt, manager Joe Maddon had a few things to get off his chest.

The Angels, who have not reached the playoffs since 2014, are nearing the end of their sixth straight losing season in which they’ll finish at least 10 games behind the American League West winner.

They entered Thursday night’s game against the first-place Houston Astros with a 72-80 record, 19-game division deficit and six-game losing streak.

Maddon believes the Angels need to add at least two front-line starters to a rotation that has only one lock for 2022: two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who is 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 22 starts.

“This can’t continue to go on,” said Maddon, whose three-year contract runs through 2022 and includes an option for 2023. “We can’t annually be in this position. This organization is better than that. We deserve better than that.”

Minasian shares Maddon’s sense of urgency.

“I don’t want to look up next year at this time and be out of it, eliminated, 10 games under .500,” Minasian said. “Nobody is happy with where we are. … We have to get better players, guys who can help us win. Unless we’re going in a different direction, and I don’t know about it.”

Walk this way

Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani bats against the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 17.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Ohtani walked in four of five plate appearances in Wednesday night’s 9-5, 12-inning loss. Two were intentional. Ohtani swung at just one pitch in each of the other two walks against Houston starter Luis Garcia, fouling both off.

This is what happens when a dangerous slugger who entered Thursday with 45 homers and 95 RBIs is “on an island,” as Maddon described it, in a lineup without the injured Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton to protect him.

“When you’re playing teams in contention, which we are, they’re gonna sit down before the game and say, ‘Do not let him beat you,’” Maddon said. “And even when it’s clear to pitch to him, as you saw early with Garcia, he did not want to throw him any strikes.”

Maddon has usually been batting Ohtani second, ahead of Phil Gosselin and Jared Walsh. The manager doesn’t see many other options.

“Wherever you put him,” he said, “it’s gonna be the same.”

Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani went to his splitter early and often against the Athletics, racking up the most splitters in a game since 2008.

Short hops

The Angels recalled AJ Ramos, a 35-year-old right-hander who spent three seasons (2015 to 2017) as Miami’s closer, and right-hander James Hoyt from triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday. Left-hander Reid Detmers was activated off the injured list and optioned to Salt Lake. Relievers Jose Marte and Sam Selman were also sent to triple A. … The Angels have parted ways with minor league field coordinator Chad Tracy, who spent seven years with the organization. Minasian said the move was a matter of fit, not performance, and his desire to give new farm director Joey Prebynski the autonomy to run his department. … Replay coordinator Ryan Garko is leaving the Angels to become Detroit’s vice president of player development.

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Angels suffer frustrating defeat against Astros in extras

Shohei Ohtani avoids a tag by Houston catcher Jason Castro.
Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani avoids a tag by Houston catcher Jason Castro but misses the plate during the 10th inning at Angel Stadium. Ohtani was later tagged out by Castro.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Angels interrupted a dreary end to another losing season with a stirring five-run rally in the seventh inning Wednesday night, only to suffer another frustrating defeat, this one a gut-punch of a 9-5, 12-inning loss to the Houston Astros in Angel Stadium.

The Angels failed to score after loading the bases with no outs in the 10th, and the Astros took advantage, scoring four runs in the 12th inning. That sent the Angels to their sixth straight loss and eighth consecutive loss at home, the longest such streak since the Angels lost nine straight home games from July 21-Aug. 4, 1994.

“It’s tough … it happens, it’s called baseball, and it’s frustrating,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the 4-hour, 18-minute game. “You could go home happy tonight, instead you go home a little bit later and you’re not very pleased.

“That’s the nature of our game. It can be very jubilant, and there are other times when it kicks you in the teeth. Tonight, we got kicked a little bit.”

Houston’s winning rally off Angels left-hander Sam Selman in the 12th started with a Chas McCormick single to right field, which advanced extra runner Marwin Gonzalez to third. Jake Meyers singled to left to score Gonzalez for a 6-5 lead and advance McCormick to third.

Jose Altuve hit a two-run double into the left-field corner for an 8-5 lead. He took third on the throw and scored on Alex Bregman’s sacrifice fly to make it 9-5.

Angels right-hander Andrew Wantz had kept the Astros off the board in the 10th to preserve a 5-5 tie, and Shohei Ohtani was walked intentionally — his fourth free pass, two of them intentional, of the game — to put two on with no outs in the bottom of the 10th.

Phil Gosselin singled to left, a line drive hit so hard that extra runner Jack Mayfield had to hold at third, loading the bases with no outs. Jared Walsh grounded a ball past the mound that Astros shortstop Carlos Correa smothered and, from his knees, made a one-hop throw home to force Mayfield for the first out.

Houston manager Dusty Baker replaced left-hander Blake Taylor with right-hander Yimi Garcia to face pinch-hitter David Fletcher, who lofted a fly ball toward the line in shallow right field.

McCormick made the catch and fired a one-hop throw home to nail Ohtani, who gave himself no chance of scoring by not sliding into the plate. The double play ended the inning and sent the game to the 11th.

“It was a great decision to go,” Maddon said of Ohtani. “It was just another great play [by the Astros]. He’s on the run, going toward the [line], I know it wasn’t deep, but we’ve challenged that in the past.

“Regarding the slide or no slide, I couldn’t really tell. I would have to watch a replay of that. The ball took a big hop, and Jason [Castro, Houston catcher] made a good play on it. But I do agree with taking that chance. They just made another good play there.”

Wantz blanked the Astros again in the top of the 11th, but the Angels couldn’t score after advancing the extra runner with a sacrifice bunt to open the bottom of the 11th.

The Astros built a 3-0 lead on the strength of Yordan Alvarez’s two-run homer in the first off Angels starter Janson Junk, a 456-foot shot to center field that landed on the green batter’s eye, and a solo shot by Castro to lead off the fifth.

In between, Junk, who was acquired from the New York Yankees for left-hander Andrew Heaney in July, retired 10 straight batters from the first through fourth innings.

Down by three, Gosselin led off the seventh with a single off the leg of reliever Phil Maton and took third on Walsh’s opposite-field double to left. Max Stassi was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.

Jose Rojas lined out to second, but Luis Rengifo slapped an RBI single to left to make it 3-1. Third-base umpire Todd Tichenor ruled that Kean Wong checked his swing on a full-count pitch, though on replay, it appeared Wong swung. The bases-loaded walk made it 3-2.

Right-hander Kendall Graveman replaced Maton, and Brandon Marsh hit a soft one-hopper to Correa, who charged the ball and threw home in time to force Stassi for the second out.

Graveman threw a knee-high, 97-mph fastball to Mayfield, who sliced a three-run double just inside the right-field line to give the Angels a 5-3 lead. Ohtani was intentionally walked, and Gosselin flied to right to end the inning.

The euphoria of the comeback and the big five-run rally disappeared in the top of the eighth, when the Astros tied the score with a two-out, two-run rally off Angels reliever Steve Cishek, who walked Bregman and gave up an RBI double to Alvarez and an RBI single to Yuli Gurriel.

“Two outs, nobody on, then they scored those two runs, and that opened the extra-inning floodgates,” Maddon said. “We absolutely had opportunities to just end it and didn’t, and eventually they wore us down.”

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Shohei Ohtani is two home runs away from Angels single-season record

The Angels' Shohei Ohtani prepares for his first at-bat against the Astros Tuesday
The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani prepares for his first at-bat against the Astros on Tuesday in Anaheim.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Those who remained from an announced crowd of 18,332 in Angel Stadium on Tuesday night were rewarded with an eighth-inning home run by Shohei Ohtani, one of the few highlights of a 10-5 loss to the Houston Astros.

The Angels’ two-way star drove his 45th homer of the season off Astros reliever Cristian Javier 445 feet to right field, the ball leaving Ohtani’s bat at 116.1 mph.

“If you chop that up a little bit, you might get two or three [home runs] out of it,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It was crushed.”

Ohtani’s first homer since Sept. 10 tied the slugger with Mike Trout (2019) for second place on the franchise’s single-season homer list and moved him to within two homers of the franchise record of 47, set by Troy Glaus in 2000.

Ohtani ranks third in the major leagues behind Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez, who have 46 homers each.

But according to Stats by STATS, Tuesday night marked the 13th time this season Ohtani has homered and his team wound up losing by four or more runs. That ties the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa (1999) for the most such games in a season in major league history.

The Astros continued to steamroll their way toward another American League West title, crushing four home runs to send the Angels to their fifth straight loss.

Kyle Tucker and Aledmys Diaz hit back-to-back homers off Angels starter Packy Naughton in a three-run second inning, Jose Altuve hit a two-run shot in a four-run fifth, and Martin Maldonado hit a solo shot in a three-run sixth.

The Astros increased their AL West lead over Oakland and Seattle to eight games with 11 games left and reduced their magic number to clinch their fifth division title in six years to four.

Naughton, a 25-year-old left-hander who was making his fourth big league start and sixth appearance, was roughed up for four runs and four hits in four innings, striking out three and walking two.

Angels starter Packy Naughton throws during a game against the Astros
Angels starter Packy Naughton throws during a game against the Astros on Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

“I made two bad pitches,” Naughton said. “I think I battled and came back pretty well, but in the end, you have to look at those two pitches and hope that next time I can execute them better and they’re not home runs.”

Naughton, who began this season at double-A Rocket City, has faced some of baseball’s best lineups in his brief big league career. His six appearances have come against the Dodgers, Astros, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres (twice).

“It’s awesome, honestly,” Naughton said. “I need to face these teams. You’re not going to go through your career without facing the best of the best, you know? So to come up here and get this experience now, I’m definitely looking forward to next season.”

Right-hander Oliver Ortega replaced Naughton and retired only one of the six batters he faced in the fifth, walking Maldonado to open the inning, giving up Altuve’s 29th homer of the season—a two-run shot to left and singles to Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez before striking out Carlos Correa.

Tucker walked to load the bases, and right-hander Kyle Tyler gave up a two-run single to Diaz that gave Houston a 7-1 lead, the Angels scoring their only run to that point on Jack Mayfield’s solo homer in the second.

The Astros pushed the lead to 10-1 in the sixth on Maldonado’s homer, Correa’s sacrifice fly and Tucker’s RBI fielder’s choice.

The Angels finally made some noise in the bottom of the sixth when Juan Lagares led off with a single, Ohtani hit a one-out single and Phil Gosselin drove a three-run homer to left off Astros starter Jose Urquidy to make it 10-4.

Ohtani plans

The Angels may not necessarily want more of a good thing when it comes to Ohtani’s workload as a pitcher next season.

The right-hander has established himself as the team’s ace this season, going 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA in his 22 starts, striking out 146 and walking 44 in 123 1/3 innings after being limited by elbow surgery to 1 2/3 innings in 2019 and 2020.

But Maddon balked when asked Tuesday whether the Angels might consider employing Ohtani in a traditional five-man rotation, starting him on four days’ rest, in 2022. Ohtani has usually pitched on six and sometimes five days’ rest this season.

“I wouldn’t think that would be part of the landscape,” Maddon said. “In order to be successful, I think we have to be prepared to go with six [starters]. That’s the price you pay, or the method you have to employ, to have this guy do both, to pitch and hit. I’m pretty certain it will remain the same.”

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws against the Athletics Sunday
Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws against the Athletics on Sunday in Anaheim.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Ohtani gave up two runs and five hits and struck out 10 in eight innings of Sunday’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to Oakland. He threw his split-fingered fastball a career-high 55 times, inducing 17 swinging strikes and two called strikes with the pitch. The A’s went 0 for 19 in at-bats ending with Ohtani’s splitter.

Maddon said the team hasn’t determined when Ohtani will pitch again, but it’s possible the right-hander could make two more starts, in Sunday’s home finale against the Seattle Mariners and the Oct. 3 season finale at Seattle.

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Jaime Barria battles, but Angels fade late in 10-0 loss to Astros

Angels starting pitcher Jaime Barria during a baseball game against the Houston Astros.
Jaime Barria gave up only two runs in 5 1/3 innings Monday, but the Angels lost 10-0 to the Astros.
(Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

The Angels hung around with the first-place Houston Astros for seven innings Monday night.

In the bottom of the seventh, they even had the bases loaded while only trailing by two.

But, as has become the case during the team’s recent September slump, they faded down the stretch.

They squandered the bases-loaded opportunity in the seventh. Their inexperienced bullpen was battered in the eighth and ninth. And a once-competitive game ended as a 10-0 blowout Astros win, marking the Angels’ fourth straight defeat and 10th loss in their last 14 games.

Here are three observations from Monday.

Jaime Barria battles

Jaime Barria bounced back from another rough beginning to a game, following up a two-run first inning with nothing but zeros the rest of his start.

Barria, who entered the night with a 9.00 ERA in first innings this season, gave up a leadoff home run to Jose Siri, then three more singles later in the first that culminated in an RBI hit from Carlos Correa.

“I need to work on my focus, getting out there ready to go,” Barria said through an interpreter.

Manager Joe Maddon echoed a similar sentiment: “He’s just got to come out fire-blazing a little sooner to not put himself in that position.”

“But,” Maddon added, “he gets smacked in the jaw, then all of a sudden everything gets sharper.”

And on Monday, that was the case again, as Barria escaped repeated trouble the rest of the night.

He worked around a single in the second, two more in the third, then stranded runners at second and third in the fifth.

His final line: 5 1/3 innings, two runs, 10 hits and five strikeouts, bringing his season ERA to 4.77 and epitomizing a trait Maddon highlight before the game.

“He’s got major league-caliber makeup,” Maddon said. “Love the way he walks out to the mound and competes.”

And as attention begins to turn toward next season — when Barria will be out of minor league options — the 25-year-old is building his case as a productive member of the pitching staff, one who could slot in either at the back of the rotation or in the bullpen.

“As he gains more experience and stays in the league a little bit longer, you’re gonna see him pitch well,” Maddon said. “I don’t know if it’s gonna be as a starter. Could be. He could be a really valuable guy out of the bullpen, going through a lineup one time. I don’t know. I know he wants to start, and he’s shown us that he can.”

Highlights from the Angels’ 10-0 loss to the Houston Astros on Monday night at Angel Stadium.

Bullpen struggles

After Barria’s exit, the Angels got a mixed bag from their bullpen.

Jimmy Herget stranded an inherited runner in the sixth, then Mike Mayers induced a double play in a scoreless seventh inning — lowering his ERA to 4.02, the lowest it has been since early May.

Andrew Wantz and Jose Marte, however, struggled in the eighth and ninth, respectively

With one out in the eighth, Wantz gave up a double to Correa, back-to-back singles to Marwin Gonzalez (which drove in a run) and Chas McCormick, then a three-run homer to former Angels catcher Martín Maldonado.

Marte, making only his second appearance since returning from a nearly monthlong absence on the injury list following COVID-19 issues, also gave up four runs, all of them coming on a grand slam by Gonzalez hit deep to right field.

“It’s just a scattered approach right now,” Maddon said of Marte, noting the rookie’s velocity has been the same since returning. “We just gotta get him out there as often as we can to sharpen him back up … He’s got to be a little bit rusty from not having pitched in a bit.”

Offense silenced again

The Angels’ recent slump at the plate continued Monday.

Entering the night, the Angels were already last in the majors this month in scoring, second-to-last in batting average and slugging percentage, and third-to-last in on-base-percentage.

And against Astros starter Framber Valdez, their struggles were on full display.

Through the first six innings, the Angels mustered just five singles. Then in the seventh, they squandered their best opportunity to get back into the game.

After Kurt Suzuki led off the inning off with a single, Jack Mayfield and Brandon Marsh each drew a walk with two outs to load the bases. David Fletcher grounded out to Correa at shortstop to end the threat — the last act of Valdez’s scoreless seven-inning performance.

“[Valdez] came right at us with the fastball, fastball in,” Maddon said. “And we just kept putting the ball on the ground.”

The Angels failed to score against the Astros’ bullpen as well, suffering their 13th shutout loss of the season.

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Angels vs. Astros recap: Astros win 10-0

A recap of the Houston Astros 10-0 win over the Angels on Monday.

Top 1st, 2-0 Astros — Jaime Barria gives up a couple early runs: It took just three pitches for the Astros to grab a lead Monday, as Jose Siri hit a leadoff solo homer against Angels starter Jaime Barria.

The Astros tacked on another run in the first, too, with Carlos Correa driving in a run with an RBI single up the middle.

Mid 5th, 2-0 Astros — Barria escaping jams, but Angels still trail: Jaime Barria has navigated traffic on the bases since the first inning, stranding one runner in the second, two in the third and two more at second and third base in the fifth.

The Angels lineup, however, has yet to score against Astros starter Framber Valdez, who has allowed just three hits over the first four innings.

Mid 7th, 2-0 Astros — Angels bullpen keeps it close: The Angels offense is still struggling, but the team’s bullpen has pitched well in relief of Jaime Barria, who was removed after giving up a single with one out in the sixth.

Jimmy Herget retired both batters he faced in that inning, then Mike Mayers pitched a scoreless seventh by getting an inning-ending double-play.

Bottom 7th, 2-0 Astros — Angels strand bases-loaded opportunity: Astros starter Framber Valdez bent but didn’t break in the seventh, escaping a bases-loaded jam to keep his team’s two-run lead intact.

Kurt Suzuki led the inning off with a single, then Jack Mayfield and Brandon Marsh each drew a walk with two outs.

David Fletcher couldn’t drive any of them home, however, grounding out to shortstop Carlos Correa to end the threat.

Top 8th, 6-0 Astros — Astros pull away behind Martín Maldonado: After protecting their lead in the bottom of the seventh, the Astros cushioned it with four runs in the top of the eighth.

With one out in the inning, Angels reliever Andrew Wantz gave up a double to Carlos Correa, back-to-back singles to Marwin Gonzalez (which drove in a run) and Chas McCormick, then a three-run homer to former Angels catcher Martín Maldonado.

Final, Astros win 10-0: The Astros put an exclamation point on their win, with Marwin Gonzalez hitting a long grand slam in the ninth against reliever Jose Marte.

The Angels were shutout for the 13th time this season and dropped to 72-78.

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Shohei Ohtani back at DH after eight-inning pitching start

Shohei Ohtani runs to first base during a game.
Shohei Ohtani will bat third for the Angels on Monday night against the Houston Astros.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

As the season enters its final couple weeks, Shohei Ohtani’s playing time remains full-speed ahead.

A day after throwing 108 pitches in an eight-inning start on the mound, Ohtani was back in the Angels’ lineup for Monday night’s series opener against the Houston Astros as designated hitter.

Ohtani has played in all but four of the Angels’ games this season.

Maddon also said the Angels are planning to give Ohtani at least one more start before the end of the season, as long as he continues to feel good. Ohtani had battled arm soreness last week but felt good enough by Sunday to take the mound.

Maddon said on Sunday that giving Ohtani another start or two, and in turn building upon his innings-pitched total of 123 1/3 this year, could help prepare him for an even bigger workload on the mound next season.

Short hops

— As scheduled, the Angels added reliever Austin Warren back to the active roster Monday. Warren had been out since last month, when he went on the injured list amid the team’s COVID-19 issues. Right-hander Cooper Criswell was optioned in a corresponding move.

— Maddon didn’t have an update on outfielder Jo Adell’s status, saying it remains unlikely that Adell will return before the end of the season. Adell has been out since Sept. 11, when he sustained a left abdominal strain after crashing into an outfield wall trying to make a catch.

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Justin Upton not expected to return from back injury before end of season

Justin Upton talks to third base coach Brian Butterfield.
Justin Upton is unlikely to return before the end of the season.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Angels manager Joe Maddon said Monday that outfielder Justin Upton is unlikely to return before the end of the season. Upton has been on the injured list since Sept. 5 because of a right lumbar strain in his back.

“He’s up there [in the clubhouse] working out, but I don’t anticipate him back,” Maddon said.

If Upton is indeed finished, it will mark the end of a difficult 2021 season for the 34-year-old, who Maddon said was hampered by back issues during the second half of the campaign.

Upton batted just .211 in 89 games with 17 home runs, 41 RBIs and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .705. It marked the third consecutive season that the four-time All-Star had a batting average of .215 or worse and an OPS below .725.

After slumping through the first month and a half, Upton caught fire after being bumped up to the leadoff spot in late May, hitting .326 with 15 RBIs over a 25-game stretch that lasted until late June.

“When we put him in the leadoff spot, my goodness,” Maddon said. “He just took off with it.”

On June 22, however, Upton sustained a back injury that forced him to miss 21 games. And after returning, the 15-year veteran didn’t look the same, going just 12 for 95 before suffering his lumber strain.

Maddon said Upton’s back bothered him throughout that stretch.

“His back started to hurt, and the whole thing changed,” Maddon said. “And when he came back, he wasn’t quite the same.”

Asked where he views Upton fitting into the team next season — which will be Upton’s last of a five-year, $106-million contract — Maddon said Upton will “be in the mix” with other young outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh for the two spots alongside Mike Trout.

“I like the guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I like him in the dugout. He does have leadership qualities. And I’d like to believe that there’s more of what we saw when he was really hot. He carried for us for about a month. It’s just been a tough year physically for him.”

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Betting odds and lines for Angels vs. Astros on Monday

The Angels enter Monday scoring the fewest runs per game of any MLB team in the month of September (3.25 average) and will look to break out the bats at home against the Houston Astros.

The Astros give Framber Valdez the start, who opened as a -265 favorite on DraftKings before that price was bet down to -225 overnight. Houston is 14-5 in Valdez’s last 19 starts as the betting favorite.

Valdez is 5-4 in his nine road starts this season with a 3.39 ERA and 2.6 walks per nine innings allowed.

The Angels turn to Jaime Barria to oppose Valdez. Barria has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last four starts, but has failed to complete five innings in three of those starts. After the Angels won in his first two starts, they lost six of the seven games Barria pitched in since the beginning of August.

DraftKings opened the total for Monday’s clash at 8.5 and the total got as high as 9.5 prior to settling at nine overnight. Six of their last 10 games between the Angels and Astros have gone under the total. The Astros are second in MLB in runs per game, averaging just over 5.3 per game.

VSiN, the Sports Betting Network, offers more expert sports betting content in a free daily email at VSiN.com/email.

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