Shohei Ohtani has been the story of baseball all season. Even as the Los Angeles Angels slip out of playoff contention, Ohtani has remained atop headlines, mainly because he does something otherworldly almost every single night.
On Friday, Ohtani threw a career-high 117 pitches to secure his ninth win of the season on the mound and drop his ERA below 3.00. He struck out eight batters of 7.0 innings. However, he was still in the lineup — batting second — on Saturday, which is almost unheard of by itself.
In the sixth inning, Luis Rengifo drew a walk and David Fletcher reached on a fielding error, putting Ohtani at the plate with no outs and two runners on. He took the first pitch he saw — an 88 mph cutter down the heart of the plate — a whopping 426 feet to secure a 4-0 Angels lead.
It was his league-leading 43rd home run, giving him a three-homer buffer over second place, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
Joe Maddon — who has already sung Ohtani’s praises at every turn — couldn’t help but go further into just how incredible he has been this year, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“It’s impressive,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Every other manager and every other player you talk to about him, they’re in awe of it. You really have to understand what’s going on here. Just the physical component, it’s mentally staggering to do what he’s done. He had some really good swings tonight. He’s gotta be sore after those 117 pitches. But he just doesn’t indicate that, at all.”
Saturday’s starting pitcher Jose Suarez threw a complete game, but even he had plenty to say about Ohtani. That home run is likely what allowed him to stay and finish up his nine innings of work.
“It’s honestly incredible to witness what we’re watching,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “He’s out of this world with everything he does on the field. Being his teammate is super cool.”
The home run — and Suarez’s complete game — put the Angels back at .500 on the season. While this record by itself is likely not what the team had hoped for coming in, being here without Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and several starting pitchers is another testament to Ohtani’s greatness this season.
With just 26 games left in the schedule, Ohtani has just a few chances left to do remarkable things. It’s likely that he’ll take every single one of those opportunities.
Ohtani’s 117-pitch performance was a growth moment
For the second night in a row, Maddon left his starting pitcher in longer than he normally would to challenge them. Both Ohtani and Suarez have made it worth his while.
For Ohtani, Maddon saw his outing as a real moment of growth, saying that throwing 117 pitches can do wonders for a player’s confidence going into subsequent starts.