(sports news article intro) Shohei Ohtani had a great year with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In 2018, he hit his stride, winning the American League Rookie of the Year award. He had a 3.31 ERA and an 8-4 record in 20 starts. In only 10 starts in 2019, he has an ERA of 3.92, and a record of 2-4. But ohtani had a bad night on Monday against the Texas Rangers. He went 0-4 and was hit hard. He only managed to get 3 outs on the night.
The last time someone did what Shohei Ohtani just did – he was the starting pitcher in the game and led the Major Leagues in home runs – was on the 13th. June 1921. When Babe Ruth took the field that day against the Detroit Tigers, he already had 19 home runs to his name. Ruth batted third and hit two more homeruns, but he also gave up four runs in the fifth inning and then left the game. This was Ruth’s last departure before 1930. By then, his two-way skills were a distant memory.
A century later, Ohtani put on a similar performance – five innings pitched, four runs allowed – but offered a contrasting route.
His start Monday against the Texas Rangers began with a reminder of how hard it is to do what he does and ended with a statement that Ohtani might still be able to do it. He allowed five base runners in the first inning, threw a three-run home run and threw only 11 of 29 pitches with a strikeout. From the second inning through the fifth, he faced 12 of 13 batters – striking out eight, including five in a row.
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Ohtani also had a 52-foot strikeout and a 113.8 mph line drive, both hits. He scored three runs, brought in two more and could have stolen at least one base if Angels manager Joe Maddon hadn’t blown him off for being too much.
If you didn’t enjoy watching it tonight, Maddon said after the Angels’ 9-4 win, then you can’t enjoy baseball.
Ohtani clearly has the power, bat control and speed to become a top offensive player. He also has the equipment and instincts to excel as a pitcher, as well as the discipline and competitiveness to combine the two roles. The only glaring obstacle – aside from calluses, one of which appeared on his middle finger in the late innings Monday – is the team.
Ohtani’s team was significantly worse six days ago when he returned from a 16-day break to start the game against the Rangers : He walked six batters and struckout one, but did not allow a run in four innings. In the first round of Monday’s rematch at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, he again had no chance and led against each of the top five players he faced.
On a scale of 0-100, Ohtani gave his team a zero in their first meeting against the Rangers.
After the second, he increased the number to five.
He thinks things will be much better from now on.
I felt like my team was pretty good from the second set, Ohtani said through his interpreter, so I have to keep building on that.
Maddon began his second year as Angels manager with the intention of removing the artificial constraints that limited Ohtani and giving him the freedom to play without restrictions. Therefore, he began to notice Ohtani’s original sense of humor and unwavering competitiveness. Maddon thinks hitting on pitching day is good for Ohtani because it keeps him from committing to one aspect.
That’s exactly what happened on Monday.
After allowing four runs in the first half of the first game, Ohtani came to bat to start the second game, he doubled to right field and then scored on a single by Mike Trout to tie the score. When Ohtani returned to the field, he approached it as a new beginning.
I treated it like it was a brand new game, Ohtani said. From that moment on, everything went smoothly.
Ohtani relied heavily on his fastball to get in front of batters and then used his splitter to send them away, getting seven of his nine strikeouts with the last pitch. Sometimes he also showed a tighter slider with less depth that looked like a cutter. Maddon noticed a cleaner delivery and clearer possession – exactly the kind of dramatic change he’d seen with Ohtani before. This was his first win since the 20th. May 2018.
He never panicked, Maddon noted. When things went wrong, his attitude didn’t change, the determination didn’t disappear from his face. He knew he had to make adjustments, so it wasn’t an emotional impulse that drove him to improve during that match. He’s not starting to accelerate, and that’s why he can make those adjustments.
Ohtani, who is expected to make his return to the Angels’ lineup on Tuesday, is hitting .300/.341/.675 with 14 extra-base hits – including seven home runs – in 85 appearances. He has a 3.29 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 13 walks in 13 innings. As a kicker, he’s in the top 2% of hitters. As a pitcher, he uses a splitter who has allowed one hit and 18 strikeouts.
According to Maddon, the erratic team could simply be a result of the fact that he threw only 79⅔ innings between 2017 and 2020 and is still comfortable in the major league arena. Even when he falters, Maddon added that it’s still very difficult for Ohtani to get a strikeout – a sign that dominance could eventually follow, as it did Monday.
At times like this, Maddon said, you just have to settle down and watch.
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