BOSTON -- For April showdowns, it doesn't get any better or more compelling than the Red Sox-Angels matchup that opens tonight in Anaheim.Take the two hottest teams in the American League and mix in the most intriguing early-season storyline in many years (two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani), and you should have
BOSTON -- For April showdowns, it doesn't get any better or more compelling than the Red Sox-Angels matchup that opens tonight in Anaheim.
Take the two hottest teams in the American League and mix in the most intriguing early-season storyline in many years (two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani), and you should have riveting drama from the first pitch of this three-game series.
That first pitch, by the way, will be thrown by Ohtani due to some intervening from Mother Nature. The Japanese star was supposed to start for the Angels on Sunday in Kansas City, but that game was rained out.
The Red Sox have a pretty good pitcher of their own on the mound in lefty David Price, a five-time All-Star.
Ohtani was tremendous in his first two starts against the Athletics, allowing three earned runs over 13 innings. But he hasn't faced a challenge yet like the one the smoldering-hot Red Sox will present. Boston is 13-2, marking the best start in franchise history. In fact, it is the best start any AL team has had since the 1987 Brewers went 14-1.
"I know they have a great team," said Ohtani. "They're off to a great start, so it's not going to be easy."
Price won't have it easy, either. The 13-3 Halos are every bit as hot, riding into this series with a seven-game winning streak.
The Angels and Red Sox rank first and second in the AL in offense in several categories, including OPS, runs, batting average and slugging percentage.
This has all the makings of a great series. Both teams have also pitched well, though Boston has set itself far apart from the rest of the pack with the performance of its rotation.
"The Red Sox are doing a lot of things well, and we're going have to play good baseball," said Halos manager Mike Scioscia. "Again, it comes down to how you're playing the game, not who you're playing or where you're playing. We need to continue with our momentum that we've built up and go out there and play with the confidence we played and hopefully get a game on your terms and win it, no matter who you're playing."
There will probably be a break from Ohtani-mania on Wednesday, as he typically doesn't DH the day after he pitches. But he could be in the lineup by Thursday.
While Ohtani's pitching heroics were somewhat expected, his hot start at the plate (.367, three homers, 11 RBIs) has been a revelation considering his woes in Spring Training with the bat.
Not since Babe Ruth has someone demonstrated such equal prowess with the bat and arm.
"Yeah, it's impressive," said Boston ace Chris Sale. "I know how hard it is to get out there every fifth day, just pitching. And he's got a laundry list of other things to do in terms of hitting. I don't know if I'd like to do it, but it's impressive. He throws 100 mph and can take you deep at the same time. If you don't respect that, I don't know who you are or what you're doing."
The Red Sox were one of the many teams hoping to land Ohtani last offseason.
"Wow, Show-tani!" Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of his hot start. "Has some power. As you guys know, we did our homework and we made our pitch, but we weren't in the finalists. But just watching him and watching the videos and all that, he's a good athlete -- fast and has some pop. And that split thing he's throwing right now, that's dirty. Throwing 100, they've got a good one and they're playing good baseball."
There would clearly be something for Boston to gain by being the first team able to have success against Ohtani the pitcher.
"We will go with the same game plan that's been working," said Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. "Try to go out there and beat him. He's a big name who is getting a lot of coverage, and we're looking forward to playing the Angels."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. MLB.com reporter Maria Guardado contributed to this story.