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Ohtani improves to 4-1 with 9-K gem

MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- Sundays with Shohei didn't disappoint for the third consecutive week, as Shohei Ohtani delivered another brilliant pitching performance, and received enough help from his scrappy offense, to lead the Angels to a 5-2 win over the Rays at Angel Stadium, snapping the club's five-game skid.

Ohtani allowed only two runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings in his seventh outing, lowering his ERA to 3.35 on the season. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out nine and walked one while throwing a career-high 110 pitches. The Angels improved to 26-21 overall, and 6-1 in games that Ohtani has pitched this season.

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ANAHEIM -- Sundays with Shohei didn't disappoint for the third consecutive week, as Shohei Ohtani delivered another brilliant pitching performance, and received enough help from his scrappy offense, to lead the Angels to a 5-2 win over the Rays at Angel Stadium, snapping the club's five-game skid.

Ohtani allowed only two runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings in his seventh outing, lowering his ERA to 3.35 on the season. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out nine and walked one while throwing a career-high 110 pitches. The Angels improved to 26-21 overall, and 6-1 in games that Ohtani has pitched this season.

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"I think we're starting to get him stretched out in the game where he's maintaining his stuff a little bit longer," manager Mike Scioscia said. "One hundred and ten pitches is, I think, reasonable, and he felt good, still throwing the ball well. We'll see where he is in his next start, how he rebounds and hopefully we can continue to get into this range of pitches consistently."

Ohtani is the third American League player since 1908 to record six or more strikeouts in six of his first seven career games as a pitcher, joining the Indians' Herb Score (1955) and the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka (2014).

Ohtani surrendered a leadoff home run to Johnny Field in the third, but he settled in after that, retiring 12 in a row before Wilson Ramos singled to open the seventh.

"After the home run, I think the fastball got better and better," catcher Martin Maldonado said. "He was throwing well, anywhere he wanted."

Ohtani was tested again following Ramos' single in the seventh. After a flyout from Brad Miller, Matt Duffy produced another single to right-center field to put a pair of runners on board with the Angels leading, 3-1. The next two batters -- Mallex Smith and Daniel Robertson -- drove balls to the warning track, but Justin Upton and Chris Young were there to make the respective catches, allowing Ohtani to escape unscathed.

Ohtani returned to the mound for the eighth with his pitch count at 99 and yielded a ground-rule double to Field, who advanced to third on a wild pitch, before scoring on Denard Span's groundout to cut the Angels' lead to 4-2. Ohtani struck out C.J. Cron swinging on three straight sliders for the second out of the inning, but then gave up a single to Joey Wendle, prompting Scioscia to replace him with rookie Justin Anderson.

"I got in a little trouble in the seventh inning, but I was able to get out of it, and [Scioscia] trusted me to go back out there in the eighth," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I wasn't able to get out of the eighth, but I think I can build from this outing."

Ohtani received a standing ovation from the 38,560 fans at Angel Stadium as he walked off the mound and waved his cap to acknowledge the crowd before returning to the dugout.

Blake Parker came on to record the save in the ninth, his second of the season and his first since March 30.

Video: TB@LAA: Parker strikes out Field to earn his 2nd save

The Angels entered Sunday batting just .211 on this homestand, and they produced only four hits against four Rays relievers, who pitched in lieu of a traditional starter, but they scored four of their five runs on productive outs. Zack Cozart collected two RBIs on a pair of sacrifice flies, and Maldonado launched a solo homer in the eighth to cap the club's offensive output.

"It's been a weird week or so where we hadn't gotten a lot of stuff going," Cozart said. "Today, we had a lot of stuff going, not with hits, but with walks, some stolen bases and stuff like that. Playing some small ball out there. That's what you have to do if you're not getting a lot of hits, you've got a find a way to do something else."

Video: TB@LAA: Maldonado smashes a solo homer to left-center

The Angels trailed, 1-0, after being held hitless through the first three innings, but Andrelton Simmons led off the fourth by bouncing a comebacker toward right-hander Matt Andriese, who couldn't field the ball and allowed Simmons to reach on an error. Andriese then walked Cozart and uncorked a wild pitch that permitted the runners to move up to second and third with no outs.

Pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena put the Angels on the board with a run-scoring groundout, and Maldonado put them ahead with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. It marked the Angels' first lead since Tuesday. Young then doubled to give the Angels their first hit of the afternoon, and left-hander Jose Alvarado hit Michael Hermosillo to keep the rally alive, but Ian Kinsler subsequently popped out to end the inning.

Video: TB@LAA: Cozart scores on Maldonado's sacrifice fly

Mike Trout manufactured an insurance run for the Angels in the fifth, drawing a leadoff walk off Alvarado, stealing second and third and scoring on Cozart's sacrifice fly to right field. Trout collected his 174th and 175th career steals during that sequence, passing Luis Polonia for sole possession of third in franchise history.

"I think on the offensive side, we are multidimensional," Scioscia said. "I think we have a team that can [put] pressure on the bases, as you saw this afternoon. We did a great job on baserunning. We scored three sac flies, so the guys were doing a good job in the batter's box. On a day when you end up with only four hits, you still manage to get five runs, I think that says a lot about the way you can manufacture. We need that to be part of our game, for sure."

Video: TB@LAA: Statcast™ tracks Trout's 2 steals, run scored

 SOUND SMART
Ramos' seventh-inning single was the first hit off Ohtani's splitter this season. Opposing hitters are now 1-for-44 with 30 strikeouts against the pitch.

HE SAID IT
"I'm honored to be even mentioned in that conversation, but I still feel like I'm not quite at that level yet. I just need to keep on showing up every day and putting up good results." -- Ohtani, on whether he'd be interested in participating in the Home Run Derby

UP NEXT
The Angels will head to Toronto and enjoy an off-day Monday before kicking off a three-game series against the Blue Jays on Tuesday at 4:07 p.m. PT at Rogers Centre. Garrett Richards (4-2, 3.47 ERA) will oppose left-hander J.A. Happ (5-3, 4.15 ERA) in the opener. In seven career appearances (five starts) against the Blue Jays, Richards is 2-3 with a 5.74 ERA, though he hasn't faced them since Aug. 23, 2015. Trout has hit at least one home run against Toronto each season since 2012.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani