ANAHEIM -- Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani showed he's not dealing with any fatigue in September, as he threw a career-high 117 pitches against the Rangers and showed elite velocity when he needed it.
Ohtani twice threw pitches harder than 100 mph, which was his first time reaching that mark since his first start of the year against the White Sox on April 4. And he ended it with three straight fastballs at least 99 mph against Isiah Kiner-Falefa to get out of a jam in the seventh to lift the Angels to a 3-2 win in the series opener on Friday at Angel Stadium.
“Pretty powerful,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He threw only 84 pitches last time, so I felt good about leaving him out there. A lot of strike-throwing. They did a great job of battling his stuff. He gave up a home run, but he had great control and command tonight with good stuff.”
It was a good sign for Ohtani, who had his scheduled start against the Yankees on Tuesday pushed back three days after being hit on his right hand/wrist by a 93 mph fastball on Saturday. He showed no lingering effects of the injury, even after being hit on his hand by a comebacker from Nathaniel Lowe in the first inning.
"It still hurts a little bit, but otherwise, it's fine," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "The comebacker hit the tip of my nail and bounced off and hit my right shoulder. But I felt good, for the most part. Just the two walks and a couple long at-bats, if I could've eliminated those, I could've gone deeper."
Ohtani, who also leads the Majors with 42 homers, improved to 9-1 with a 2.97 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 112 innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks over seven innings with eight strikeouts, while also going 0-for-4 at the plate with two well-struck groundouts. He had exit velocities of 101.2 mph and 105.7 mph on his groundouts, making him the only player with multiple pitches thrown at least 100 mph and multiple batted balls with at least 100 mph exit velocity in the same game this year.
"I saw a lot of 97s, a lot of 98s and here comes the 100," Maddon said. "I thought he had a really good fastball tonight. They just kept ticking it and fouling it off. But he also had a good slider, breaking ball and a half-dozen good splitters. He attacked hitters and was in the zone where he wanted to be. It was one of his best overall performances all year, to me."
Ohtani’s first three hits allowed were infield singles, but he gave up a two-run homer to Jason Martin on a first-pitch fastball in the second inning to tie the game at 2. Ohtani had been given an early lead with the Angels scoring twice in the first inning on RBI singles from Phil Gosselin and Jared Walsh.
He found himself in a jam in the fourth with two runners in scoring position and one out after a single from DJ Peters and a double from Nick Solak. But Ohtani ramped up his velocity, striking out Martin on a 100.4 mph fastball for the second out. And just two pitches later he reached 100.5 mph with his fastball before getting Leody Taveras to ground out on a 99.5 mph fastball.
"He reached back when he needed to get 100 a few times," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "He's just good, man. He's always composed out there. He executes pitches. And he’s got amazing stuff.”
Ohtani entered the sixth having thrown 85 pitches, but threw just seven pitches in the frame to give himself a chance in the seventh after the Angels took the lead on an RBI single from Max Stassi in the bottom of the sixth. His previous season high in pitches was 105 on June 3 and his career high was 110 pitches on May 20, 2018. But Ohtani went past both marks in the seventh, as he struck out two, but walked Taveras with two outs to put two runners on.
Pitching coach Matt Wise met with Ohtani on the mound and he remained in the game to face Kiner-Falefa. Ohtani retired Kiner-Falefa on four pitches with his final three fastballs registering 99.1 mph, 99.5 mph and 99.4 mph. Kiner-Falefa grounded out to first to end the inning. It allowed Ohtani to get one more at-bat in the seventh, but he struck out against reliever Jharel Cotton.
"With runners at first and second, I thought there was a good chance I'd be taken out right there,” Ohtani said. “But Joe had faith in me and let me pitch to that last batter. I'm happy I was able to come through. I think it'll definitely help in the future. Not giving up that last run, Joe will have faith in me and keep putting me out there when I'm past 100 pitches."