Historic DH decision leads Halos to wild loss

June 24th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Two-way sensation made history yet again on Wednesday, as he started on the mound and hit for himself against the Giants with designated hitter rules in place. It marked the first time in Major League history that an American League team chose not to use a DH while a National League team utilized one.

Ohtani didn’t disappoint either, as he threw six strong frames in a wild 9-3 loss in 13 innings that lasted nearly five hours at Angel Stadium. He allowed one run on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in a no-decision and has a 2.58 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings this year. The lone run he gave up came on a solo homer from Mike Yastrzemski in the fifth. Ohtani, who is set to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Colorado’s Coors Field on July 12, also went 0-for-3 at the plate with two strikeouts against Kevin Gausman.

"It was really hot out there but I managed to fight through it and got my six innings,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I think I could've cut down the pitch count a little bit. I feel like they did a lot of homework on the scouting report. But I tried to use that to my advantage. But the home run I allowed came on a pitch right down the middle. So I'd like to have that one back."

Ohtani’s velocity was down early -- his seventh pitch of the game was a 90-mph four-seam fastball -- but it started to pick up as the game went along, especially in the fifth, when he ran into some trouble after Yastrzemski’s homer. He put two runners on with one out but struck out Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford to escape the jam with his fastball reaching as high as 99.2 mph.

"In the beginning of the game, my body felt heavy,” Ohtani said. “It was hard to move around and that's probably why the velo wasn't there. But as the game got going, I felt better and better and the velo went up."

Ohtani surprisingly came back out for the sixth despite already being at a season-high 94 pitches. He registered a 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout of Mauricio Dubón to end the frame. He threw 105 pitches, which was the second-highest total of his career and his most since throwing 110 pitches on May 20, 2018, against the Rays.

“He poured it out there at the end and got even better and was throwing harder,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He really wanted to do it, also. It’s one of those things when you get stretched out like that, you know you can do it again. I thought everything was in order for him to do it.”

The Angels considered not having Ohtani hit on Wednesday, as they had a short bench with left fielder Justin Upton out with lower back tightness. It worked out early, as Ohtani got through six innings and batted three times before being replaced by reliever Mike Mayers in the seventh.

It ended up costing the Angels in the 12th, however, as catcher Kurt Suzuki was injured on a foul tip off his mask with nobody out. With the Angels out of position players, Taylor Ward had to move in from left field as an emergency catcher. Pitcher Griffin Canning replaced Ward in left. Ward was originally drafted as a catcher and last caught professionally in 2017 but saw action at the position this year in Spring Training. The Giants took the lead on an RBI double from Steven Duggar, but Canning never had any balls hit his way and Ward fared fine as catcher that inning.

Canning, though, had to lead off the bottom of the inning and successfully dropped down a sacrifice bunt. It helped set up the game-tying RBI single from Juan Lagares.

But Lagares was later thrown out at the plate on a play that saw him originally ruled safe before the call was overturned after a replay review. Maddon felt it was too close of a play to overturn a walk-off win.

"I didn't think there was anything conclusive to overturn it," Maddon said. "It was that simple."

Pitcher Dylan Bundy was forced to hit to try to keep the rally alive, but he struck out to end the inning. The Giants scored seven times in the 13th, with runs coming on a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch before Duggar brought home two runs with a single to right and Mike Tauchman slammed a three-run blast.

Maddon explained his rationale for using Canning in left and still liked his team’s effort despite the disappointing loss.

"Canning was the most athletic and ready,” Maddon said. “But he did great and looked great in the outfield. Flawless. And then the bunt and he almost beat it out. Good for him. And Bundy took a good rip at the last one. And then you have TW catching. I'm so pleased with our guys. That was a tremendous effort from beginning to end. We have to get better in situations, obviously, against good teams. You have to take advantage of certain situations and we did not, but I was happy with the way we went about it.”