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Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani set for reunion with Angels

                                Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani bats in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Thursday.
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Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani bats in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Thursday.

Shohei Ohtani faces his former team in a regular-season game for the first time when the Los Angeles Dodgers play host to the Los Angeles Angels tonight.

Ohtani, the two-way Japanese superstar, won two unanimous American League MVP awards during six seasons with the Angels before departing as a free agent last offseason and landing a record 10-year, $700 million contract from the Dodgers.

Ohtani said he’s looking forward to the matchup but also allowed the bigger occasion will be Sept. 3-4 when the Dodgers visit Angel Stadium for a two-game series in Anaheim.

Being in his former home ballpark is when Ohtani expects the emotions to kick in, he said Thursday through an interpreter.

“I believe more so when I go to Anaheim,” Ohtani said. “But since we’re playing at Dodger Stadium, I’m just going to be focused on playing the game.”

Ohtani said he has paid attention to the Angels “here and there” this season.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani, “I think that he is grateful for his time in Anaheim, grateful for the fans. And I think he just wants to help the Dodgers win, but I think he wants to get it over with.”

Ohtani warmed up for this two-game set against the Angels by slugging his National League-leading 21st homer of the season Thursday afternoon during the Dodgers’ 5-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Denver.

Ohtani has hit four homers in his past five games. He is 8-for-18 (.444) with two homers and seven RBIs in four games since moving into the leadoff spot to replace Mookie Betts (broken left hand).

“He’s great everywhere, he’s going to hit,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said of Ohtani. “It doesn’t matter where that guy hits, he’s going to hit.”

Freeman and Will Smith also homered on Thursday as the Dodgers completed the series with three victories in four games.

The Angels were off Thursday after losing two of three to the visiting Milwaukee Brewers earlier this week.

It has been a tough season for the Angels, who are 16 games below .500 after losing Ohtani’s bat and pitching arm and having the services of Mike Trout (left knee surgery) for just 29 games.

The bats were silent Wednesday when the Angels managed just four hits while falling 2-0 to the Brewers. None of the hits were for extra bases and the Angels were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.

“We just came out on the wrong end,” Angels manager Ron Washington said of the pitching duel. “We had opportunities.”

Left-hander Patrick Sandoval (2-8, 5.24 ERA) starts for the Angels today, looking for his first victory since May 7.

Sandoval, 27, is 0-3 with a 5.63 ERA over his last seven starts despite allowing one run twice and two runs on another occasion.

He received a no-decision against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday when he gave up three runs and eight hits over five innings.

Sandoval is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in five appearances (four starts) against the Dodgers. Will Smith is 2-for-3 with a walk against Sandoval.

The Dodgers will recall right-hander Landon Knack (1-1, 2.61) from Triple-A Oklahoma City to start today’s game.

Knack, 26, made three starts in April and another in May for the Dodgers, allowing just 14 hits in 20 2/3 innings. In 10 games (nine starts) for Oklahoma City, he is 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA. He has yet to face the Angels.

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