Ohtani battles, but can't reach Nolan Ryan's record

Angels star strikes out seven in loss to A's

August 4th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- It was another solid performance from two-way star  on the mound against the A's on Wednesday, but he simply wasn't as dominant as he's been in recent starts.

Ohtani allowed three runs (two earned) over 5 2/3 innings and struck out seven in a 3-1 loss at Angel Stadium. It snapped the right-hander's streak of six straight outings with at least 10 strikeouts, which fell one shy of the club record of seven set by Nolan Ryan in 1977. But he did reach the 150-strikeout milestone on the season, as he’s struck out 152 batters in 105 innings.

"I thought he threw the ball fine,” said interim manager Phil Nevin. “He really allowed two runs through six innings. He didn't strike out as many as we're used to, but I mean, he still struck out seven. He threw the ball well."

Ohtani, who fell to 9-7 with a 2.83 ERA in 18 starts, also fell short of reaching the 10-win mark for a third consecutive outing, as he’s dropped three straight decisions. He's aiming to become just the second player in AL or NL history to record 10 wins and 10 homers in the season, as Babe Ruth in 1919 is the only player to accomplish the feat.

Ohtani also left the game with a right forearm cramp in the seventh inning, as catcher Kurt Suzuki pinch-hit for him and drew a walk against Oakland lefty A.J. Puk. But both Ohtani and Nevin said it didn’t affect his performance on the mound, and Ohtani said he expects to be in the lineup at designated hitter again for the series finale on Thursday.

"If I'm healthy enough to play, I want to be out there,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “It feels like I can't really afford to take a day off at this point."

Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, was impressive early, as he retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced with five strikeouts. But he was hurt by a throwing error from third baseman Luis Rengifo to open the fourth. After Ohtani uncorked his 11th wild pitch of the year, he gave up an RBI single to Sean Murphy to put the Angels in a 1-0 hole.

"It's one of those things where he's so good that you have to see all his pitches and make him work a little bit,” said Murphy, who drove in all three of the A's runs against Ohtani. “Try and wear him down some. We were able to work some counts and see some pitches and we got a couple of mistakes and capitalized on it.”

Rengifo helped make up for his error with an RBI double in the fifth, but Ohtani had trouble with runners in scoring position while at the plate. Ohtani came up with two runners in scoring position and one out in the third, but lined out to third base. In the fifth, he grounded out to shortstop with a runner on second base and one out.

"The situation with second and third with one out, I feel like if I came through on that, we could've won the game,” Ohtani said. “So I felt like that was the biggest moment of the game."

Ohtani was again heavily reliant on his slider, throwing it a career-high 61 times compared to 20 four-seamers, six cutters, six splitters and six curveballs. He registered 14 swings-and-misses with the slider, two with his four-seamer and two with his splitter.

But Ohtani gave up a go-ahead homer to Murphy in the sixth on a 2-1 slider over the middle of the plate. He was removed later in the inning after a walk and a two-out single, having thrown 99 pitches. Lefty Aaron Loup came in and got out of the jam to keep the inherited runners from scoring, but the damage was done.

"The slider felt good,” Ohtani said. “I was able to command it pretty well. We were in a tight spot, it was a close game, so I just felt like the slider had the best chance of getting outs."

But it was the third straight start that he went heavy on the slider, and A's hitters looked like they were sitting on it late -- similar to Ohtani's outing in Atlanta on July 22. Nevin, though, said as long as Ohtani executes his sliders, it makes sense to keep throwing them, though he just missed his spot against Murphy.

"When Shohei throws a good slider, I don't care if you know you're sitting on it or not, you're not going to hit it,” Nevin said. “But he just didn't throw a good one there. That was probably the one pitch he'd like back."