Saturday, July 20, 2024

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani makes history even before he takes the mound to dominate Astros

On Wednesday night in Houston, Shohei Ohtani’s latest appointment with history was prelude to a dominating performance on the mound against the division-rival Astros

The Angels‘ two-way superstar and the 2021 AL MVP was batting leadoff in Joe Maddon’s lineup, and in the top of the first Ohtani and his mates were able to hang six runs on Houston starter Jake Odorizzi, who lasted just ⅔ of an inning. In all, 11 Angels hitters came to the plate in the top of the first, and that means Ohtani came to the plate twice (he walked and doubled). That, in turn, meant that Ohtani has once again made history: 

To repeat, until Ohtani on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, no starting pitcher had logged two plate appearances in a game before ever throwing a pitch. This, of course, is partly a function of the DH being in place in the AL since 1973 and in the NL pitchers almost always batting at the very bottom of the order. Now that the universal DH is in effect, Ohtani will almost certainly be the first and last to achieve this rare feat. His prowess with the bat is such that he DHs even when he’s the Halos’ starting pitcher. 

Speaking of Ohtani the starting pitcher, after that bit of history he got busy dominating the Astros. Here’s his final line in the 6-0 Angels’ win: 

Ohtani at one point struck out six in a row – two shy of Nolan Ryan’s franchise record – and he didn’t permit a three-ball uncount until Yordan Alvarez worked it full to lead off the fifth. Ohtani’s 12 strikeouts ties a career high, and that comes against a Houston lineup that’s been difficult to strike out in recent seasons. 

Ohtani was also working on a perfect game until Jason Castro singled to center – Castro’s first hit of the season – with one out in the sixth. Relevant: 

Prior to the game, Maddon said Ohtani would be limited to 95 pitches. However, the right-hander’s developing bid for history changed his thinking: 

That, suffice it to say, would’ve been something. Up until Castro’s hit, it looked like that kind of night, as Ohtani was working in the high 90s with his fastball and commanding his array of secondary offerings. In related matters, he also racked up 20 swings and misses on the night. 

Ohtani hadn’t performed up to his standards in 2022 until this game. His gem on the mound lowered his ERA for the season from 7.56 to 4.40, and his 2 for 4 night at the plate (with a walk) lifted his seasonal OPS from .691 to .743. That’s still not vintage Ohtani, which means the (first-place) Angels might be able to bank on improving numbers from this point forward. Whatever the case, he provided a night to remember on Wednesday.

To sum it up: 

There remains nothing like him. 

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