The Houston Astros enter into a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels with the countdown to the playoffs now very much in mind.
Houston has just completed a two-game sweep of the Texas Rangers to cap their fifth successive winning month.
The same can't be said of the Angels, however a morale-boosting series win over the New York Yankees will certainly appease the Halos' supporters in the short term.
Houston Astros versus Los Angeles Angels, Game One of Three
Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California
09:38 EST Friday 2nd September 2022
How to watch
ATT Sports Net - SW, Bally Sports - West
HOU Astros N/A, LA Angels N/A
Shohei Ohtani has been sensational this season. The 28-year-old hit his 30th home run of the season on Wednesday night, which made him the first player in AL/NL history to record 10 wins on the mound and 30 homers at the plate in the same season.
Ohtani helped the Angels defeat the Yankees as he hit a three-run homer off Gerrit Cole in the sixth inning to give LA an eventual 3-2 win over New York. It also helped Ohtani become the first Japanese-born player with multiple 30 homer seasons.
Ohtani is also in a race to win back-to-back AL MVP awards to become the first player to do that since Miguel Cabrera in 2012/13.
Ohtani was up against his nearest rival Aaron Judge this week and Ohtani was speaking about the AL MVP race this week to the official LA Angels website: "It definitely leads to motivation to do better and try to go for that hardware.
"It's something I think about. But for the most part, I take it game by game and at-bat by at-bat. At the end of the day, we'll count it all up."
Ohtani is hitting .269 with 30 home runs and 20 doubles, 82 RBI's and 11 stolen bases in 127 games. Ohtani on the mound is 11-8 with a 2.67 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 128 innings.
He is the only player in AL/NL history with at least 30 home runs and 100 strikeouts in a season, a feat he also accomplished last year, when he hit 46 home runs and struck out 156 batters.
Despite recent injuries to key players Justin Verlander (calf), Yordan Alvarez (hand), and Aledmys Diaz (groin) the Astros sit on top of the American League and have opened up a 12-game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the AL West with 31 games remaining.
Dusty Baker spoke to the Houston Astros website, following the win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night: "You try to win 15 games a month. We need to just continue to do the same and come out of the month healthy.
"There are some guys on this team who have had big Septembers, especially Kyle Tucker. It will be good to get Alvarez back in September, but these guys are picking it up for him in the absence of the guys that are hurt."
After beating the Rangers on Wednesday night, the Astros opened up a four-and-a-half-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League standings and they also have the advantage in the tiebreaker.
The Astros have a favourable schedule from here and won't play another playoff contender until they go to Baltimore in three weeks' time.
The Astros will send Lance McCullers Jr to the mound on Friday evening with the 28-year-old coming back from injury. In his three previous starts, McCullers Jr has a 1-1 record with a 1.69 ERA, he's struck out 13 batters so far this season but walked ten.
The Los Angeles Angels will have Reid Detmers pitching. The 22-year-old has a 5-4 record with a 3.47 ERA. Detmers won on his last appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays and will be a good matchup for McCullers Jr for Game one of the series.
Houston leads the battles between the two sides this season. In 13 meetings, the Astros have won nine and lost four.
These two franchises in the same Division meet this weekend for a series before travelling to Houston next weekend for their final three-game series of the 2022 season. The Angels have only won three of the last 11 meetings between the two sides.