Questions raised as Ohtani again struggles in Bronx

Tipping pitches? Shohei allows 3 HRs in G1 before Angels take tough G2 loss

June 3rd, 2022

NEW YORK -- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani made history again on Thursday, as he became the first player to start in one game of a doubleheader as a pitcher and start the other game as a non-pitcher since Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx on Sept. 2, 1945, but his troubles on the mound at Yankee Stadium continued.

Ohtani's shortest start of his career came in the Bronx last year, when he recorded just two outs and gave up seven runs on June 30, and he didn't fare much better in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday. Ohtani went three-plus innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and a walk in a 6-1 defeat. The Angels followed that with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in Game 2 that completed a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees and extended their losing streak to eight games.

Add it up for Ohtani, and he has allowed 11 runs in 3 2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium in his two starts. But Angels manager Joe Maddon noted it was strange seeing Ohtani register just three swings and misses over his 75 pitches just one game after Noah Syndergaard induced just one whiff in 45 pitches on Tuesday.

“They were on everything: fastball, split, curveball -- they’re that good maybe,” Maddon said. “And he just had a tough day because of it.”

Asked to elaborate, Maddon didn’t accuse the Yankees of cheating but suggested Ohtani might’ve been tipping his pitches. He also had a meeting with the umpires in the sixth inning because the club’s PitchCom device wasn’t working.

“They’re really good at reading pitches, they’re really good at it,” Maddon said. “I’m not accusing anybody of anything except that they’re good at it. If you're able to acquire things through natural means, I think it's great. There are things that pitchers do that other teams can pick up on. We need to be more vigilant."

Ohtani, who was originally scheduled to start Thursday night before Wednesday’s game was postponed, didn't have his usual swing-and-miss stuff and struck out only two batters. His velocity, however, was actually up a tick, as his fastball averaged 97.5 mph and reached as high as 100.5 mph.

Ohtani, though, laughed when asked if he was tipping pitches, saying it was a better question for Yankees hitters. But it was telling that his whiff rate was the second-lowest of his career behind a rough start against the Astros on Sept. 10, 2021, when he recorded three swings and misses among his 77 pitches.

"They have a great lineup, and if I don’t make my pitches, they’re going to hit my pitches hard, and that’s what happened,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I’m not sure [if I was tipping]. You should ask the other team.”

Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, struggled from the start, as he surrendered a leadoff homer to Matt Carpenter on his 11th pitch of the game. Aaron Judge followed with a single, but Ohtani matched his outs total from last year at Yankee Stadium by getting Anthony Rizzo to ground into a double play. However, Gleyber Torres followed with a solo homer of his own on a first-pitch fastball above the zone.

Ohtani allowed the first two runners to reach in the second but escaped the jam. He wasn’t as fortunate in the third, when he gave up a solo shot to Judge on a 1-2 slider that was up in the zone. It marked just the second time that Ohtani gave up three homers in a game, as he also served up three in Baltimore on Aug. 25, 2021.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was relayed Maddon’s comments and didn’t disagree with the assertion his club is good at finding opposing pitchers’ tells.

“I think we are,” Boone said. “We’re going to hopefully continue to be good at it.”

Ohtani was removed from the game after giving up back-to-back singles to open the fourth. Lefty came in and promptly gave up an RBI double to Marwin Gonzalez, with the run charged to Ohtani. It was the shortest outing of the year for Ohtani, who had gone at least six innings in each of his last four starts. And it was also his shortest start since his last outing in New York on June 30, but Ohtani said the pressure of pitching at Yankee Stadium hasn’t been the issue.

“Obviously they're a great lineup, and two games is a small sample size,” said Ohtani, who fell to 3-4 with a 3.99 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings over nine starts this year. “I don't think the pressure thing is much of a big deal to me. I just need to make my pitches."

Ohtani remained in the lineup for the second game and hit two balls hard off right-hander Jameson Taillon, who held the Angels without a baserunner until the eighth inning. Jared Walsh ended the perfect game with a leadoff double and scored on a two-out RBI single from Kurt Suzuki. But reliever Archie Bradley gave up a two-run single to Anthony Rizzo in the eighth to give the Angels another hard-luck loss.

Superstar Mike Trout, however, said they’re trying to stay positive.

“We’re just going through a rough stretch,” said Trout, who went 0-for-6 with a walk and was hit by a pitch in the doubleheader. “Guys are working, but things just aren’t going our way. We just have to keep working and turn the page.”