Anaheim still loves Ohtani amid trade rumors, but Angels stumble in return from All-Star break

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels coach Phil Nevin made it clear that a Friday night victory over the Houston Astros won’t solve all of his injury-riddled team’s problems.

“We’re not going to make up this big deficit that we’ve acquired over the last two weeks,” Nevin said ahead of Friday’s game. “We’re not going to catch up tonight. But we have to play better baseball to have any chance of doing these things.

In front of a packed Angel Stadium, the Angels only fell further into their sub-.500 hole – despite Shohei Ohtani’s best efforts. The Astros defeated the Angels, 7-5, in Game 1 of the weekend series. But the Angels’ abysmal 45-47 record may not even be the biggest storyline surrounding the team.

Although the Angels gave no indication of a desire to trade Ohtani, that didn’t stop players and fans from openly courting Ohtani in Seattle during the All-Star Game. The MLB trade deadline, August 1, is fast approaching.

“Come to Se-at-tle!” chants rang out from Mariners fans during the ASG game when Ohtani was at bat. Mets pitcher and compatriot Kodai Sengathrough a translator, joked about putting his Mets cap on Ohtani’s head.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it, but I’ve definitely heard it,” Ohtani said of Seattle chanting after the ASG game through his interpreter Ippei Muzahara.

But Angels fans show Ohtani as much love as they can, and for as long as they can. Ohtani still receives the loudest cheers of the entire Angels roster, especially as Mike Trout is still recovering from a broken wrist that will keep him out of training for the foreseeable future. Ohtani’s jersey is the most represented in the entire stadium. Pockets of “MVP” chants erupted across Angel Stadium every time the star was at bat.

“Angels fans come to see the Angels because they love the team and [Ohtani] wants to do his best for them and like he said there are things he can control and there are things he can’t control and everything he can control he wants to do his best said Muzahara, performing one of Ohtani’s answers to a question during the All-Star Game.

Ohtani pitched five innings and finished his Friday night with a 3.50 ERA and seven strikeouts. He opted out of pitching in the ASG earlier in the week due to a blister. Ohtani left the mound at the top of the sixth inning after walking Astros left fielder Corey Julks.

“I saw something not right after [Ohtani] market [Julks], so I wanted to check on him. He mentioned the finger was a little sensitive,” Nevin said in his explanation of Ohtani’s exit.

Ohtani, after putting on a shin guard, ended up staying in the game as the designated hitter. In five at bats, Ohtani had two hits and a run.

Ohtani’s blistered hand is something to watch out for. And keeping him in Anaheim isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the Angels’ problems, but for now his presence is enough to at least keep the fans in the seats.

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