How 4-game set with rival became Ohtani's showcase

June 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

There’s no hotter hitter in baseball than . Oh, and he pitches, too.

Ohtani helped the Angels win three out of four against the AL West-leading Rangers by crushing four homers in the series and throwing six strong innings in the finale on Thursday. Ohtani is now tied for the Major League lead with 22 homers this season and made a start as a pitcher while leading the league in homers for the 15th time in his career on Thursday.

Incredibly, Ohtani is the first player to have the MLB lead in homers and also have the best batting average against as a pitcher (min 70 innings) at the end of any day since 1900, per’s indispensable Sarah Langs. He also is third in the Majors in strikeouts as a pitcher with 105 in 82 innings.

In his past 15 games, Ohtani is batting .439/.529/1.035 with nine homers, five doubles, a triple, three stolen bases and 20 RBIs. And on Thursday, he limited the high-powered Rangers to two runs in six innings to improve to 6-2 with a 3.29 ERA in 14 starts this season. He also smacked an opposite-field blast on Thursday after also homering twice on Monday and once on Wednesday.

“Just an unreal series for him,” manager Phil Nevin said. “It was neat to see him do it on a big stage, just knowing what those games mean for us.”

Ohtani’s play has helped the Angels win nine out of 11 games heading into their three-game series in Kansas City. They bounced back after losing three straight in Houston, and Ohtani said he’s been enjoying the vibe.

“The boys are fired up,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “It’s a different atmosphere, even in the dugout during the games. Hopefully, we can continue this all the way through.”

The Angels have also been mapping out Ohtani’s workload on the mound to make sure he’s fresh for the second half, but he’ll pitch on his sixth day, as scheduled, on Wednesday against the Dodgers. Right-hander Jaime Barria will start the series opener against the Dodgers on Tuesday, which means lefty Reid Detmerswill take the mound against the Rockies next Friday on eight days of rest. 

Ohtani said his start against Texas was a step in the right direction, especially after walking only one batter and not allowing any homers. 

“It’s definitely getting better,” Ohtani said. “I was checking my mechanics between innings and making adjustments, but there’s a lot more room to make it better.”