Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani’s third start of the season had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster at nearby Disneyland.
But the 26-year-old’s outing will go down in history as he became the first MLB home-run leader to be a starting pitcher in a game since Babe Ruth did it on June 13, 1921. Ohtani’s seven home runs entering Monday were tied for the league lead, and on the mound he earned his first win since 2018, before he had Tommy John surgery.
Ohtani, who has been excelling as a hitter but has struggled with command as a pitcher so far in 2021, started the night on the mound on a similarly ominous note. In the first inning, the hurler gave up four runs, walking two batters and hitting a third with a pitch. Walks had been a huge problem for Ohtani, who entering the game had more walks than innings pitched, and it looked like he wasn’t going to make it to the second inning.
Then, things seemed to click, and all of a sudden he turned into the dominating pitcher he has been in stretches throughout his American career. Ohtani retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced, striking out nine of them. His slider was devastating, frustrating the Rangers’ lineup in a 9-4 victory.
And on the offensive side, Ohtani was excellent once again. He drove in two of the Angels’ nine runs and scored three others. At one point, he hit a 113.8 mph line drive.
With improved command like he showed on Monday, Ohtani could turn into one of the league’s most effective players both on the mound and at the plate. But he hasn’t been able to get into a normal pitching rhythm this season, as a blister kept him off the mound for two weeks after his first start.
And, unfortunately, Ohtani’s night was cut short due to yet another blister forming on his throwing hand. The removal was precautionary, and Ohtani said he was “not worried at all” and that it was a different blister from the one that kept him off the mound.
All in all, he left Globe Life Field with plenty to talk about.
“If you weren’t entertained by watching him tonight, you can’t be entertained by watching the game of baseball,” Angels manager Joe Maddon told ESPN.
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