Who's the better two-way player: Ohtani or ... Phillips?

May 11th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- Before Reid Detmers made history by throwing a no-hitter in his 11th career start on Tuesday night, the Angels recognized and presented his 2021 American League MVP Award in a pregame ceremony at Angel Stadium. On the field alongside owner Arte Moreno, general manager Perry Minasian and manager Joe Maddon, Ohtani stood near a table covered with the trophies he earned during his historic hitting and pitching season.

Eight innings later, Ohtani faced another self-proclaimed “two-way superstar.” Or, as Brett Phillips put it …

“He knows I'm the best two-way player in the game.”

Called in to pitch at the end of the Rays’ 12-0 loss to the Angels, the Tampa Bay outfielder finally met his match in Ohtani. Holding the reigning AL MVP to a double off the right-field wall might have been the highlight of Phillips’ pitching performance, as he gave up a two-run homer to Mike Trout and another two-run blast to Anthony Rendon -- who went deep while batting left-handed for the first time in his career.

Then, as usual after his pitching appearances, came Phillips’ deadpan delusions of grandeur.

“You know, that was a very highly anticipated matchup there: the American Shohei versus the Japanese Shohei,” Phillips said. “I've heard about him and how much power he has, but what I saw is off the wall. So, I don't know if it was me and my stuff -- he just wasn't used to it or didn't recognize it -- but all I see is that man hitting home runs, and he couldn't even take me deep.

“So, I guess, does that make me the better Shohei? We'll let everyone decide.”

Phillips made his highly entertaining pitching debut last July 2, lobbing in pitches he called his “Mariano Rivera cutter” against the Blue Jays. He was called upon to finish another lopsided loss to the A’s on April 11, a performance highlighted by his sliding catch in foul territory. Rays manager Kevin Cash asked him back out there Tuesday night.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the second no-hitter since 1900 with a position-player pitching appearance, as infielder Orlando Arcia took the mound for the Brewers while they were being no-hit by the Cubs’ Alec Mills on Sept. 13, 2020.

With his offerings clocking in between 51-55 mph, Phillips gave up a single before Trout crushed a home run out to center field. That set up the matchup Phillips had been waiting for, with Ohtani stepping to the plate.

Ohtani is sitting on 99 career homers, so Phillips jokingly took some pride in not giving up his 100th. In the battle of two-way stars, a double off the wall felt like a win for Phillips.

“When he got to second base, I told him he needs to do more weights,” Phillips said. “Because, again, I've heard about him -- but not tonight. No homer from him.”