There’s simply no denying that the Los Angeles Angels have been scuffling. Heading into Wednesday’s bout with the Houston Astros, they had lost five straight and had fallen decidedly out of the postseason picture. But with Shohei Ohtani on the mound, the Angels felt they could finally rally for a victory.
Not only did the Angels win in dominant fashion — a 7-1 final score — they did so on the back of a truly historic performance by Ohtani. At this point, it’s hard to call any Ohtani outing historic given how often he sets records, but Wednesday had a special feel to it.
As a pitcher, Ohtani tossed six frames, allowing one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out 12 batters, becoming the first Angels pitcher since Nolan Ryan to strike out 10 or more batters in four consecutive appearances.
As a batter, Ohtani went 2-for-4 with a triple, a single, a walk, and two RBIs. His two-run triple in the second inning helped break the game open for the Angels, and certainly removed some stress from his game on the mound. That same triple made him the first Angels pitcher since Ryan in 1972, again, to hit a triple as a starting pitcher.
Wednesday’s outing added to a growing streak of otherworldly Ohtani evenings at the ballpark. In his last six starts, Ohtani is 6-0 with a 0.45 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. He’s allowed just 20 hits, 11 walks, and two earned runs in that span.
Astros manager Dusty Baker — who is managing the American League at next week’s All-Star Game — had significant praise for Ohtani following the game, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“He’s not just an All-Star, he’s a megastar,” Baker said. “One of the top offensive players and one of the top pitchers. And he’s smart — I can tell the way he plays the game, he’s talented, but he’s smart.”
Ohtani maintained more humility, though, when discussing the idea of starting for Baker’s American League on the mound at the All-Star Game.
“It’s a special spot to start in the All-Star Game and it’s something I shoot for and I’d like to do,” Ohtani said. “But there are some guys with better numbers than me and are more deserving. I tried my best to match up to them tonight. Ultimately, it’s up to Dusty Baker.”
Ohtani got off to somewhat of a slow start this season as both a pitcher and a hitter. In April, Ohtani had a 4.19 ERA, and in his five next starts, his ERA was 3.86. From Opening Day to May 8, Ohtani’s OPS was a measly .684 with a .235 batting average. But since May 9, he’s up to .271 with a .926 OPS.
And perhaps more impressive than all of the other absurd facts and figures is the fact that Ohtani has been almost individually responsible for several Angels victories. Since June 3, the Angels are 6-0 when Ohtani is the starting pitcher. They are 6-25 in the other 31 games.
Ohtani’s individual excellence amid such a season-crushing skid has already led to questions regarding his future with the team. And at some point, the Angels will need to either go all in for a winner, or could seriously consider trading the two-way megastar.
But for now, Angels fans can sit back and enjoy the history being made at Angel Stadium on a near-nightly basis.
Perry Minasian undecided on deadline plans
The odds of an Ohtani trade materializing before Aug. 2’s trade deadline are essentially zero. However, Perry Minasian is still undecided regarding his plans for the rest of the roster. If the team goes on some type of small winning streak, he could be compelled to make win-now maneuvers.
But if the losing continues at its current pace, players like Noah Syndergaard could be on the block to ensure a brighter future in Anaheim.