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The Angels were crushing the ball ... then they got to Texas

Angels' Shohei Ohtani looks down at his bat after striking out during a Sept. 9 game against the Texas Rangers.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The Angels crushed the ball in a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros in Anaheim last Thursday through Sunday, scoring 32 runs while batting .313 with a .974 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, seven homers and eight doubles.

But in the first two games of a three-game series against the Texas Rangers in new Globe Life Field, with its artificial turf that plays fast in the infield and outfield dimensions that provide plenty of room for extra-base hits, the Angels produced just four runs in two losses.

“We leave our place, and it’s looking like we’re cooking on all cylinders, and then we get here,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said before Thursday’s series finale. “Not only this time, but last time, too.”

The Angels were swept in a three-game series in Globe Life Field in early August. In five games there, they have hit .184 with 10 runs, four homers, nine doubles, 52 strikeouts and 19 walks, a stark difference from the success they usually enjoyed in the Rangers’ old hitter-friendly ballpark across the street.

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Angels pitcher Julio Teheran gets tagged for five runs and six hits in 42/3 innings in the team’s 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

“I don’t think there’s an issue seeing the ball — nobody comes back [to the dugout] and says anything,” Maddon said. “It’s a fast infield, as fast as an infield gets, there are big gaps, and the ball gets down in a big gap normally. It’s hard to understand.”

The Angels will attempt to avoid another sweep Thursday without one of their hottest hitters. Justin Upton, who suffered a bruised left hand when he was hit by pitches twice Tuesday night, is not in the lineup for a second straight game.

Upton, who hit .429 with a 1.265 OPS, two homers, three doubles and nine RBIs in his last eight games entering the series, took batting practice Thursday morning and might be available to pinch hit.

Infielder David Fletcher (left ankle sprain) was available to come off the injured list but was not activated. The leadoff man completed an extensive workout Wednesday in which he ran from home to first base and from first to third, and he should be able to return in the weekend series at Colorado.

“He’s not 100%, but he’s getting closer to that,” Maddon said. “He just has to be guarded a little bit turning a bag, making a cut … and on defense, he still feels it a bit.”

Mike Trout’s contract is the largest in North American team sports history, but Patrick Mahomes’ deal should eventually be worth more, his agent says.

Struggling designated hitter Shohei Ohtani was also not in Thursday’s lineup against Texas starter Kyle Gibson, one of the rare times the left-handed-hitting slugger has not started against a right-hander.

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Ohtani is batting .195 with a .654 OPS, five homers, 20 RBIs, 41 strikeouts and 18 walks in 35 games — with a .154 average and a .503 OPS against left-handers. He seems timid at the plate, leaning out of the batter’s box and toward the first-base line on far too many swings, against left-handers and right-handers. Matt Thaiss will start in the DH spot and bat second.

“There’s no question he’s struggling,” Maddon said of Ohtani. “His work has been great. The coaches love his work in batting practice and pregame — he just hasn’t been able to take it into a game yet, but he will.

“I just don’t want to keep piling on him. We go to Colorado, which is a hitter-friendly ballpark, and maybe that would be a nice place for him to get that stroke back a little bit. We’re just looking to get his better swing off on a more consistent basis. That’s it.”


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