HOUSTON -- The Angels generated their fair share of scoring opportunities against the Astros on Sunday night. They just couldn't convert enough of them.
The Angels went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base in a 4-2 loss at Minute Maid Park, spoiling Shohei Ohtani's highly anticipated return to the mound.
Ohtani gave up two runs over 2 1/3 innings in his first pitching appearance for the Angels since June 6. The two-way phenom didn't take the mound for nearly three months because of a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and departed after throwing 49 pitches on Sunday.
"As far as pitching goes, I gave up that two-run shot, so I failed to do my job as a starting pitcher," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "That's a disappointment right there. Body-wise, I can't really say much at this point. I have to wait until tomorrow and see how my body reacts. But as of now, my body feels fine."
• Ohtani's velocity dip in return not elbow-related
Ohtani opened his outing with two scoreless innings before exhibiting a notable dip in velocity in the third. After touching 99.3 mph with his fastball in the first inning, Ohtani did not exceed 92.7 mph in the third. He issued a leadoff walk to Tony Kemp before misplacing a slider to George Springer, who crushed it out to left field for a two-run home run that put the Astros on the board.
"The velocity drop was probably obvious," said Springer. "He was 98, 99 and when [the velocity drop] is that obvious, I hope he's OK."
Ohtani then retired Jose Altuve on a groundout before being replaced by reliever Jim Johnson. The 24-year-old rookie gave up two hits while striking out two and walking two. Manager Mike Scioscia said Ohtani was dealing with some back stiffness and a sore right finger after attempting to field a comebacker with his bare hand in the second inning.
"The thing that obviously set him back for the last couple months was his elbow," Scioscia said. "His elbow felt fine. The peripheral things of a little stiffness in his back, taking a ball off the ring finger, that will dissipate. We're excited and we're happy that we saw the stuff that you would hope to see from Shohei."
The Angels' lineup -- which featured only three Opening Day starters -- was limited to two runs over 5 2/3 innings by Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole, though they ran up Cole's pitch count to 113 to keep him from going deep into the game.
The Angels loaded the bases with two outs in the third, but Cole escaped from the jam by inducing a popout in foul territory from Andrelton Simmons. They cut the deficit to 2-1 on a run-scoring fielder's choice by Jefry Marte in the fourth, but their best chance came in the sixth.
After Taylor Ward and Marte singled off Cole to put runners on first and second with two outs, Astros manager AJ Hinch brought in left-hander Tony Sipp to face Kole Calhoun, who walked to load the bases. Joe Smith replaced Sipp, then clipped David Fletcher with a first-pitch slider to force in a run, making it 3-2. That brought up Michael Trout, who smacked a line drive, but right at shortstop Carlos Correa for the final out of the inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Angels used five relievers to cover the innings left after Ohtani's abbreviated outing. Odrisamer Despaigne took the mound to begin the fifth, but he was unable to retire any of the four batters he faced. Springer led off the inning with a double that hit off the top of the left-field wall, Altuve walked and Alex Bregman singled to load the bases with no outs. Despaigne then forced in a run by walking Correa, giving the Astros a 3-1 lead. Scioscia replaced Despaigne with Noe Ramirez, who escaped the jam with some clutch relief.
HE SAID IT
"He's an elite arm. I think the beginning of the game, he was letting it eat a little bit. The pitch he threw me was 97 with some hop, and I hit under it and missed it." -- Bregman, on popping out vs. Ohtani in the first inning
Right-hander Matthew Shoemaker (1-0, 4.76 ERA) will make his first start for the Angels in more than five months in Monday's 5:05 p.m. PT series opener against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. He will be opposed by Texas left-hander Jeffrey Springs (0-0, 2.55). Shoemaker has not pitched since March 31 because of right forearm issues. In six career starts against the Rangers, Shoemaker is 4-2 with a 5.68 ERA.