Ohtani does it all in scoreless 7-inning start

Two-way phenom also drives in a run and scores as Angels beat Mariners

September 18th, 2022

ANAHEIM – When the seventh inning rolled around Saturday night, the Angels’ bullpen had yet to make any movement to replace on the mound. As the right-hander refused to give up a run to the Mariners, there was no reason to move.

Ohtani made his presence felt on both sides of the ball in the Angels’ 2-1 win over the Mariners at Angel Stadium. In his 25th start of the season, Ohtani shut down the Seattle lineup through seven scoreless frames as he racked up eight strikeouts, leaving him four shy of 200 on the season.

With the season reaching its final stretch, the MVP race in the American League is nearing the finish line, and Ohtani’s efforts Saturday may have given him a boost.

“I don't take this for granted at all,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. “We're all seeing things that we haven't seen before; to be that dominant on both sides. I've said it before, he's the most valuable player of our game right now and until somebody can come in and do the things he does on both sides, I don't see it going any other way.”

The Angels monitored Ohtani much closer than usual as he made his first pitching appearance since sustaining a blister in his previous start on Sept. 10, against the Astros. Head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said Ohtani let the staff know on Friday that he was ready to take the ball for Saturday’s tilt.

The added victory in Ohtani’s season stats and slight uptick in velocity show that he was more than ready.

Seattle pushed the two-way All-Star to 43 pitches in the first two innings, but the damage to his pitch count was belied by the zeros in the Mariners’ run column.

“I saw him look up at the scoreboard after, I think the second or third, and his pitch count was really high,” Nevin said. “And it was like he knew he had to be more efficient with his pitches and boom, there he went.”

It took 39 pitches for Ohtani to move through the Mariners’ lineup between the third and fifth innings. His slider accounted for 48 percent of his 107 pitches and he notched 10 swings-and-misses on the offspeed pitch.

"He just changed the shapes,” Seattle manager Scott Sevais said of Ohtani’s arsenal. “The focus on Ohtani is you've got to get the ball up. He throws 100 mph, but he doesn't [have to]. He gets you out with all the sliders."

While he shut down the Mariners’ offense, Ohtani’s bat brought a thunderous applause from Angels fans when he drilled a fastball from Seattle’s right-handed starter George Kirby to the left-field wall in the bottom of the first inning.

The 372-foot fly ball was deep enough to score Mike Trout from first base, but it narrowly missed the top of the wall. Per Statcast, the long double would have registered as a home run in 26 other ballparks.

“I feel pretty good at the plate,” Ohtani said of his opposite-field power lately. “I’m driving the ball pretty hard, but I have to get those over the fence.”

Third baseman Matt Duffy supplied the insurance run to extend the Angels’ lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning when he plated Ohtani on a groundout up the middle.

Ohtani once again proved his value to the Angels, and the sport itself, in every facet in his 13th win of the season. At the start of the fourth inning, he snagged a line drive that was smoked 90.4 MPH up the middle by Carlos Santana.

The reigning AL MVP gave an honest assessment of how he’s improved since his history-making 2021.

"I don't like to self-critique myself in any way,” Ohtani said. “One thing I could say is, overall, balance-wise, I'm having a better season this year than I had last year."