Arihara triumphs in first faceoff with Ohtani

April 20th, 2021

Just four years ago, and were teammates on the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. On Monday night, they faced off against each other in the Majors for the very first time in Anaheim.

Arihara came out on top in both matchups between the two, with Ohtani grounding into a double play in the first inning and flying out to center field in the fourth in the Rangers' 6-4 win. Ahihara said he was very excited to face off against his former teammate and was even more excited to get him out two times. 

“Obviously, he's an amazing player and his swing was extremely fast,” Arihara said through an interpreter. "The vibe he gives off is a superstar, so I'm happy and I'm glad that I was able to get him out.”

“In my first and second at-bats, I was seeing the ball very well,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “I think we’re going to face him many more times down the road, so I think it’s a good preparation for when I face him next.”

The two talked and traded pleasantries before the game, but Arihara said it was mostly friendly small talk before facing off against each other.

Arihara was pulled in the sixth inning to avoid having to face Ohtani and Mike Trout a third time, finishing his night with 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks. He notched six strikeouts, two of those coming against Trout.

The right-hander said he thinks every baseball player in Japan knows who Trout is and he knew how big it was to get those strikeouts against him.

“He is extremely famous,” Arihara said. “To be able to get him out in that manner gives me a boost of confidence and I hope that I can continue that throughout the season.”

Arihara used all seven of his pitches effectively and efficiently through his outing, extending his scoreless streak to 12 1/3 consecutive innings across his last two starts. He used his curveball just once, but his four-seamer accounted for 27 percent of his 77 pitches. 

“I didn't want to push it, he had a good outing,” manager Chris Woodward said on pulling Arihara in the sixth inning. “The last thing I wanted to do was for Ohtani to come up and get a homer or something crazy to happen where his outing doesn't look as good, because he basically dominated.”

And the Rangers offense, which was M.I.A. over most of the Orioles series this past weekend, provided a wealth of run support for Arihara. A five-run sixth inning was the highlight, but a solo home run by Adolis García in the third inning set the tone with an early lead for Texas.

The support proved to be important when the Angels put up four runs in the seventh inning. The Rangers' back-end duo of Joely Rodríguez and Ian Kennedy shut the door on an Angels’ comeback.

Rodríguez, in just his second appearance since coming off the injured list, struck out Ohtani and Trout and induced a groundout to Justin Upton to end the eighth inning, while Kennedy notched his fourth save of the season to seal the victory.

“Anytime you get a win on the road it's great, especially when you're [playing] division opponents," Kennedy said. “We got a nice six-run lead. Joely goes in there and just shuts the door and that's big, especially that big part of that lineup. Our offense putting up runs, that is big to start the road trip, against an opponent like that.”