There was nothing particularly remarkable about Shohei Ohtani’s Friday night stat line in the Los Angeles Angels win against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 5.0 innings, he allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while collecting eight strikeouts in a no decision. On the surface, it’s a fine outing. However, the actual events of the game tell a completely different story.
His numbers don’t say that he retired seven of the Diamondbacks’ first eight batters. They also don’t say that he fouled a ball off his knee in the third inning, only to hit an RBI double and pitch for three more innings. Finally, the numbers don’t show how he got out of two consecutive innings unscathed despite having runners on second and third base.
“When he is faced with a dilemma, he turns up that dial,” Halos manager Joe Maddon said. “The velocity shows up, he throws even more strikes. Love it. Absolutely love it. He’s out there, he knows exactly what he’s doing at all times. I mean, exactly. An incredible athlete with a high acumen. So he dials it up and he gets tougher when it matters. Pretty much a brilliant night for Shohei.”
Ohtani finally allowed two runs on a pair of questionable balk calls as well as a wild pitch strikeout. After this sequence, he was visibly upset at himself and the umpires, and Kurt Suzuki took notice of that.
“You like that. You like to see that fire and that competitiveness,” said Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki, who went 3-for-3 with a homer and reached base five times (with two HBP). “Shohei’s a pretty quiet guy and I tell people, ‘When he steps in between the lines, man, he’s a different person,’ and you saw that tonight. The guy battles and competes.”
While Ohtani himself didn’t get the win — as the bullpen twice blew the lead — the Angels did, surviving a ninth inning game-tying home run to win 6-5 in the 10th inning. It was their fourth consecutive win, their sixth in seven games, and their 12th in 17 games.
Now, the Halos are 31-32 and steadily making the climb back into playoff contention. Performances like Friday’s from Ohtani not only make winning easier in the moment, it also gives the rest of the clubhouse a sense of pride and confidence in what they’re doing, making it easier to win in the future.
Suzuki impressed with Ohtani for improving command
Angels catcher — and Ohtani’s personal catcher — Suzuki was asked what he’s seen from the two-way phenom and why his command has improved considerably. He called Ohtani one of the smartest pitchers he’s ever worked with, saying he knows exactly what pitch to throw in the moment and can dial it up exactly as needed.