ANAHEIM — On the night that fans filled Angel Stadium to show their appreciation for Shohei Ohtani, they saw the good and bad of what could come next.
Just after rookie catcher Logan O’Hoppe hit a two-run homer to give the Angels a lead, rookie pitchers Ben Joyce and José Soriano melted down in a five-run eighth inning that sent the Angels to a 7-3 loss to the Oakland A’s on Saturday night.
O’Hoppe, Joyce and Soriano have all shown at times this year that they could be key pieces of the post-Ohtani Angels, if the two-way star leaves as a free agent.
But young players have growing pains, and that’s what happened just after O’Hoppe’s homer put the Angels up 3-1 in the seventh. Joyce did not retire any of the four batters he faced, allowing one run.
Soriano dropped the ball — literally — for a bases-loaded balk. Two strikeouts later, he gave up a three-run homer to Shea Langeliers.
The loss was a disappointing end for the 31,633 fans, many of whom came to see Ohtani.
Ohtani had not played a game since Sept. 3, and he hadn’t played a home game since Aug. 23, the day his hurt his elbow. He hadn’t even been to Angel Stadium for a game since Sept. 17, a couple days before his elbow surgery.
But he was back on Saturday, with his elbow in a cast, to receive the team’s MVP Award in a pregame ceremony.
Ohtani received a nice ovation, although it was perhaps not as loud as it could have been because so many fans were holding up their phones to shoot video.
Ohtani is set to be a free agent after this season, and most of the baseball world expects him to be wearing a different uniform next year. The Angels insist they have a chance to bring him back.
The Angels haven’t had a winning season in six years with Ohtani. Even if does come back, it will likely be players like O’Hoppe and Nolan Schanuel who determine the direction of the franchise.
They were the bookends to the rally that gave the Angels the lead in the seventh after they didn’t have a hit in the first six innings against rookie right-hander Joe Boyle.
Schanuel led off with a walk, which extended his streak to 29 straight games reaching base safely. That ties Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter for the third longest streak to begin a major league career.
Brandon Drury then dropped a double into right-center, sending Schanuel to third. Mike Moustakas hit a fly ball the warning track in right, a game-tying sacrifice fly.
O’Hoppe then blasted his 14th homer of the year, knocking the ball out to right-center field.
It briefly set up left-hander Kenny Rosenberg for a victory. Rosenberg had pitched five scoreless innings after opener Andrew Wantz gave up a run in his two innings.
Joyce and Soriano, who had been excellent in September, couldn’t get through the eighth with the lead, though.
More to come on this story.