There was no one better to be on the mound for the Los Angeles Angels final home game of the year than Shohei Ohtani. After a record-setting season, he got perhaps his final chance to pitch before the offseason in a place where he has been absolutely dominant.
Facing the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, Ohtani put together one of his best starts of the season. Over 7.0 innings, he allowed just one run on five hits, striking out 10 batters while giving up zero walks. He crossed the 150 strikeout during this performance, but finished with a no-decision, his 12th of the season.
Joe Maddon called Ohtani an “absolute ace” as he looked back at his performances throughout the 2021 season, building the excitement for next year when the Angels have real hopes to compete for a championship, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“He was really good and he’s been like that,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s been so consistent and he’s pitched like an absolute ace. He had really good stuff and finished strong. He can throw a strike when he wants to. He’s becoming that guy, and he’s just getting better.”
At Angel Stadium this season — 13 starts — Ohtani finishes 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA. He became the sixth starter in MLB history to make at least 13 starts at home without a losing decision and an ERA below 2.00. Ohtani gave his thoughts as to why he’s been so good at home.
“There are a few factors for me,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “There’s the fans cheering for me, which gives me a lot of energy and confidence. And I’m used to the mound and the stadium atmosphere. I think it’s natural to have better numbers at home.”
Hopefully, by next season, the Angels won’t need Ohtani to be super-human. It would certainly be great for him to have this level of play sustained for multiple seasons, but it shouldn’t be expected. A lot of weight was put on him throughout 2021, and it can’t be the norm moving forward.
Even still, Ohtani’s unbeatable MVP case got that much stronger on Sunday, even though the Angels wound up losing 5-1. Jose Quijada and Austin Warren combined to give up four runs in the eighth inning, something that has happened multiple times this season during Ohtani’s starts.
Mike Trout relieved to be shutting things down for the season
While Trout absolutely wanted to get back on the field to help the Angels win this season, he admitted that finally choosing to shut it down and wait for next year came with significant relief.
He said that he’s already feeling close to 100%, and will absolutely be ready to go by the start of next season, but this season was no longer a possibility.