The Los Angeles Angels — after a year and a half of either no fans at all or limited capacity — finally welcomed a crowd of over 30,000 back to Angel Stadium. They did so on the perfect night, with Shohei Ohtani getting a start as a pitcher and a hitter, his seventh two-way game of the season. Sadly, the Angels were without their other star power in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, but Ohtani made up for it.
On the night, he pitched 6.0 innings and threw 78 pitches. In that time, he allowed five hits, one walk, and one run on a Jonathan Schoop home run. He also struck out five batters before being removed from the game prior to the seventh inning. Offensively, Ohtani went 0-for-1, but was walked twice as he continues to improve his plate discipline.
Ohtani gave some thoughts on pitching in front of a full crowd for the first time since before his Tommy John surgery in 2018, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“It definitely felt good pitching in front of a lot of people,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “It gives me energy and confidence on the mound and at the plate. And the win was obviously huge. We had been playing well, winning six in a row going into Oakland and we unfortunately got swept. But if we keep playing like we did during the winning streak, I feel like we could do a lot of good things.”
It wasn’t Ohtani’s typical pitching performance. He barely went to his unhittable splitter, instead opting for his slider against a lefty-heavy Detroit Tigers lineup. He threw his slider more than any other pitch, which was part of his game plan going in.
“I planned on throwing more sliders to lefties because my percentage of sliders against lefties was really low,” Ohtani said. “But once I started throwing it, it felt better and I just stuck with it.”
Ohtani was the perfect pitcher to have as the starter for the Angels first game at full capacity since 2019. The two-way superstar has provided so many brilliant moments this season, and it was only fitting that he have a few more with the crowd surpassing 30,000.
He also got some help from his teammates on both sides of the ball. Taylor Ward hit a seventh inning grand slam that secured Ohtani’s victory. Meanwhile, Ward, Luis Rengifo, and Kean Wong were involved in a near-perfect relay from right field to throw Akil Baddoo out at third base in the second inning.
Joe Maddon turns to Tony Watson again
Manager Joe Maddon made an unpopular decision to remove Griffin Canning from Wednesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics in favor of Tony Watson. Canning was only at 69 pitches, but Maddon liked Watson better for the individual matchups. It backfired in a big way, with Watson giving up six earned runs without recording an out.
In what appeared to be a public display of faith in Watson, Maddon once again pulled his starter out early to bring him in on Thursday. Watson responded by pitching a shutout inning — allowing just one hit — in a one-run game.