Make room for Shohei! Ohtani joins Babe in another club

May 4th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- Two-way superstar reached another superhuman achievement Wednesday night, striking out 13 batters to reach 500 in his career, which made him just the second player in AL/NL history to record 500 strikeouts as a pitcher and 100 homers as a hitter, joining Hall of Famer Babe Ruth.

But Ohtani also showed he’s human, as he struggled through a three-run fourth inning and gave up four runs over five innings in a second straight tough outing. But Jake Lamb and Mike Trout both homered in the ninth to lead the Angels to a 6-4 win and help Ohtani avoid the loss against the Cardinals on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

Angels manager Phil Nevin called it the best win of the year for the Angels, who saw Lamb tie it with his pinch-hit solo blast and Trout hit his first go-ahead homer in the ninth since July 7, 2015.

“It’s just one of those late ones that finally goes our way,” Nevin said. “We had a lot of great performances tonight. Just a great, great win.”

Ohtani, though, has been a strikeout machine this season, as he tied a career-high with his 13 punchouts and leads the Majors with 59 strikeouts in 39 innings. He became the first pitcher in MLB to reach 13 strikeouts in a game this season.

He made history with his 13th strikeout by becoming the 10th Japanese-born pitcher to reach 500 strikeouts. And, of course, he joined Ruth in the 500 strikeout/100 homer club. Ruth hit 714 home runs and was credited with 501 strikeouts as a pitcher, per the Elias Sports Bureau. (Ruth's totals on certain stat sites show 488 career strikeouts, but that does not match up when adding up the totals from his game logs. There are a number of discrepancies in terms of record-keeping from baseball’s early years, and Elias’s tally is considered the official number.) Ohtani's also just the fifth player in the Modern Era (since 1900) with 500 career hits and 500 career strikeouts, joining Smoky Joe Wood, Red Ruffing, Walter Johnson and Ruth, per ESPN Stats.

Ohtani had a strange start outside of his strikeout total, however, as he allowed four extra-base hits, walked a batter, hit another and threw two wild pitches. It marked only the third time in his career he has given up four extra-base hits and he had allowed just five on the season coming into his start. He also surrendered five hits, snapping his streak of 10 straight outings of allowing three hits or fewer, which was tied for a Major League record with Jacob deGrom in 2021.

So while it was special for Ohtani to reach yet another milestone, he was frustrated he only made it through five frames.
“I gave up a couple homers and I wanted to get through six or seven innings, minimum,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “So more than the strikeouts, I’m just disappointed I couldn’t pitch deeper in the game.”

He had also gone 12 straight starts without giving up a homer until surrendering two against the A’s in his last outing. He matched that total against the Cardinals, as he gave up a solo homer to Nolan Gorman in the first and a go-ahead two-run shot to Dylan Carlson in the fourth.

The Angels led by two runs heading into the fourth and Ohtani helped his own cause at the plate with an RBI single as part of a two-run third. But Ohtani was greeted by back-to-back doubles from Nolan Arenado and Willson Contreras to open the fourth. After striking out Alec Burleson, Ohtani served up a two-run homer to Carlson to give the Cardinals the lead.

“Those are good hitters over there,” Nevin said. “Gorman jumped on that first-pitch heater in the first inning and then in the [fourth] he hung a couple sliders over the plate. But he finished up strong and he had three hits. So it was a really nice performance by him.”

The Cardinals attacked him early in the count that inning, as Arenado's double came on an 0-1 sweeper, Contreras' double came on a first-pitch sweeper and Carlson’s homer came on 0-1 sweeper.

“I feel like they were sitting on certain pitches on certain counts,” Ohtani said. “They guessed right and got all of those extra-base hits. I just have to do a better job.”

Ohtani and the Angels appeared headed for a disappointing loss, only for Lamb and Trout to play hero in the ninth after a strong performance from the bullpen. Trout said he hopes it’s a spark for the 17-14 Angels.

“It means a lot,” Trout said. “These ones you look back at the end of the year, they add up. We have to take this momentum into tomorrow.”