Opening Day FAQ: Angels vs. A's
OAKLAND -- With the A’s entering year two of a rebuild and coming off a 102-loss season, outsiders might view inching closer to .500 as a reasonable expectation. For manager Mark Kotsay, however, the bar is much higher.
“Getting to the playoffs would be a successful year,” Kotsay said. “That’s our goal. I don’t think there’s any other way to start the season than looking at it like that.”
There is optimism for the green and gold entering 2023. The A’s made offensive improvements by adding free agents Aledmys Díaz, Jesús Aguilar and Jace Peterson. Top prospects such as Tyler Soderstrom and Zack Gelof are also expected to reach the big leagues later in the season.
A good measuring stick for how the A’s might stack up in a loaded American League West will present itself when they open the season by hosting Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and the Angels on Thursday night at the Coliseum. After a disappointing 73-89 campaign in 2022, the Halos are in search of their first postseason berth since 2014 and had an active offseason, with Tyler Anderson, Brandon Drury, Gio Urshela and Hunter Renfroe among the new additions.
The hope is that if their improved roster can make a deep playoff run, Ohtani, who is entering his final year before free agency, might be enticed enough to stick around with the Angels a bit longer.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. PT/10:07 ET on Thursday. It will be broadcast nationally on MLB Network. A's fans can watch locally on NBC Sports California and listen on A's Cast or Bloomberg 960. Angels fans can watch on Bally Sports West and listen on the Angels Radio Network.
What are the lineups?
1. Taylor Ward, LF
2. Mike Trout, CF
3. Shohei Ohtani, SP
4. Anthony Rendon, 3B
5. Hunter Renfroe, RF
6. Brandon Drury, 1B
7. Luis Rengifo, 2B
8. Logan O'Hoppe, C
9. Gio Urshela, SS
- Tony Kemp, 2B
- Conner Capel, DH
- Aledmys Díaz, SS
- Seth Brown, LF
- Jesús Aguilar, 1B
- Ramón Laureano, RF
- Jace Peterson, 3B
- Shea Langeliers, C
- Esteury Ruiz, CF
Who are the starting pitchers?
Angels: Fresh off being named the MVP of the World Baseball Classic, Ohtani is starting on Opening Day for the second straight season for the Angels and will bat third. He had his best season as a pitcher last year, going 15-9 in a career-high 28 starts while posting a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 166 innings. He finished fourth in the balloting for the AL Cy Young Award and second in the AL MVP voting behind Aaron Judge.
Ohtani allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings in his Opening Day start against Houston last year and has a career 2.50 ERA in 10 starts against the A’s. He’s heading into a huge season for himself, as he’s set to be a free agent after the season. Ohtani will be followed in the rotation by lefties Patrick Sandoval, who starts Saturday, and lefty Tyler Anderson, who starts the series finale on Sunday.
A’s: Kyle Muller, Oakland’s No. 5 prospect, will get the ball for his first career Opening Day start. The left-hander was acquired this winter from the Braves as part of the return for catcher Sean Murphy and was rated Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline at the time of the deal. A second-round pick by the Braves in the 2016 MLB Draft, Muller spent six seasons in Atlanta’s Minor League system and posted a 3.18 ERA in 108 games (107 starts), including 588 strikeouts over 541 innings. He also received a Triple-A All-Star selection last season after posting a 3.41 ERA and holding opponents to a .694 OPS across 23 starts.
With just 12 Major League games under his belt, Muller has the least amount of big league experience as an Opening Day starter for the A’s since 2014, when Sonny Gray started the season opener with 12 Major League games on his resume. He is also the lone MLB rookie scheduled to start on Opening Day this season.
How might the bullpens line up after the starter?
Angels: The Angels don’t have a set closer, as reliever Carlos Estévez was considered the most likely candidate but struggled with his command in Spring Training. He could ultimately claim the role, but early in the season, the Angels are going to go with a closer-by-committee. They like their bullpen depth and feel like they can lean on right-handers Jimmy Herget and Ryan Tepera and lefties Aaron Loup, Matt Moore and José Quijada. Jaime Barría remains the club’s long reliever.
A’s: Jeurys Familia, who signed a Major League deal on Sunday, could be in line for some closing opportunities. Over 11 big league seasons, he holds a 3.51 ERA with 125 saves and 568 strikeouts over 543 innings. Still, the A’s will likely start out with a closer-by-committee situation, with Domingo Acevedo, Zach Jackson, Trevor May and Dany Jiménez all late-inning relievers who could be in the mix.
Any injuries of note?
Angels: Fletcher was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with abdominal tightness, but it’s considered a minor injury. Reliever Jose Marte will open the season on the 60-day injured list because of a right elbow stress reaction, and right-hander Chris Rodriguez is still ramping up after missing last season with a right shoulder injury. Jared Walsh and Max Stassi will also start the season on the IL due to lingering ailments.
A’s: 2022 All-Star Paul Blackburn and right-hander Drew Rucinski, both of whom were considered locks for the rotation entering Spring Training, will begin the season on the injured list. Veteran catcher Manny Piña will also miss the start of the season due to a left wrist injury that limited him to one Cactus League game.
Who’s hot and who’s not?
Angels: Ohtani and Trout both excelled in the Classic and had the chance to play in a postseason atmosphere to get ready for the season. Sandoval also pitched like an ace for Team Mexico. Rendon, Renfroe, Ward, Drury, Rengifo and Walsh had strong springs offensively, while lefty Reid Detmers looked sharp all spring. Estevez had a rough spring, which is typical for him historically, while Moore and Tepera each had a couple of tough outings.
A’s: Newcomers Ruiz and Díaz were among the club’s top offensive performers in Spring Training. On the pitching side, Shintaro Fujinami racked up 20 strikeouts over 18 2/3 Cactus League innings, continuing to set high expectations for what will be his first MLB season.
Anything else fans might want to know?
Angels: The Angels are playing in Oakland on Opening Day for the fifth time over the last seven seasons. They lost on Opening Day against the Astros last year and they’ve won their regular-season opener just once dating back to 2013. The Halos beat the White Sox on Opening Day at Angel Stadium in 2021. They are 31-31 overall on Opening Day.
Phil Nevin is entering his first full season as Angels manager. He took over as interim manager last year when Joe Maddon was dismissed in early June and managed the club for the final 106 games of the season. The Angels also hired Marcus Thames as their hitting coach, Phil Plantier as their assistant hitting coach and Bill Hezel as their assistant pitching coach.
Trout is set to make his 11th straight Opening Day start in center field for the Halos, which ties Tim Salmon's club record of 11 consecutive Opening Day starts in right field from 1993-2003. Garret Anderson holds the club record with 14 career starts on Opening Day, while Salmon had 13 Opening Day starts with the Angels and Brian Downing had 11.
A’s: Muller has just 11 career starts, and the only Opening Day starting pitchers in Oakland history with fewer career starts entering the game are Gray (2014), Carlos Reyes (1996) and Vida Blue (1971), who all had 10 career starts.
The A’s will face the Angels on Opening Day for the fourth time in the last seven years and the eighth time overall. They have won each of their last three openers against Los Angeles and are 5-2 overall.