Shohei Ohtani took the mound for the Los Angeles Angels once again on Thursday night against the Texas Rangers. As expected, he was thoroughly impressive as he breezed his way through six innings. He allowed two runs on eight hits — which is actually a down start for him based on recent history — but struck out 11 batters in the process.
With this performance, he kept his 10-plus strikeout streak alive, securing double-digit K’s for his sixth consecutive start. It’s tied for the second-longest streak of this kind in Angels franchise history. Nolan Ryan achieved six between 1972 and 1973, and Ryan also holds the record with seven consecutive starts in 1977.
Ohtani proved yet again why he is not only the most talented player in baseball today, but perhaps among the most talented to ever play the game. But — in a growing pattern — it came in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers. Spencer Howard, who came into Thursday with an ERA over 7.00, pitched five shutout innings, allowing only three hits.
The Rangers bullpen was even more dominant, as they allowed only two hits over the next four frames. And so despite another historic outing from Ohtani, the Angels only have another notch in the loss column to show for it.
And as rumors swirl regarding the Angels’ plans at the upcoming trade deadline, Ohtani was asked point blank if he hopes to remain with the team long-term. His answer was, unsurprisingly, noncommittal, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“Regardless of where I’m playing, I’m going to give it my all and try to win the ballgame that’s right in front of me,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I’m with the Angels right now and I’m very thankful for what they’ve done. I really love my teammates. Right now I’m an Angel so that’s all I can focus on at this point.”
With this statement, Ohtani said quite a bit while saying very little. Of course, it would be viewed as unprofessional to publicly request a trade or admit that he would prefer to leave if given the opportunity. However, he made next to no promises about his future with the Angels.
It’s been covered ad nauseum why the Angels likely won’t trade Ohtani before Tuesday’s trade deadline — if at all — but quotes like this certainly add pressure to Arte Moreno and Perry Minasian’s already tense situation.
The question came not only on the heels of his incredible performance in a loss, but the added wrinkle of him being trapped at nine wins. Getting to 10 wins would make him the first player since Babe Ruth to have 10 wins as a pitcher and 10 home runs as a hitter in the same season.
Last year, he got trapped at nine wins as the Angels struggled offensively with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon on the IL. This year, it’s more of the same. While it’s not the end of the world if Ohtani can’t reach 10 wins, it’s almost symbolic of where Ohtani’s relationship with the team might stand.
Teams hesitant to trade for Thor
Another name that has been thrown around in a more significant way than Ohtani is Noah Syndergaard. As an expiring contract having a solid season on the mound, it would make plenty of sense for the Angels to get some prospects as opposed to letting him enter free agency this winter.
However, teams have been showing some hesitation to part with significant talent for Syndergaard. This is due to a combination of factors, including injury concerns, his massive drops in velocity, and the inflated $21 million contract he signed before the lockout.